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Village finds alternative to coal for heating
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A village in China's northernmost Heilongjiang Province is to replace coal with processed plant stalks to heat their houses, making it the first "coal-free" area in a province known for its cold climate, a local official said Sunday.

More than 400 households in Qinlao Village near provincial capital Harbin in a few days will turn to stalks, "waste" previously burnt in the field, for heating.

Villagers will collect the plant stalks in their fields and send them to a local artel, where the stalks will be machine-processed into lumps of biomass fuel.

Villagers have previously used mainly coal for heating during the long Winter. Switching stalks for coal is expected to reduce both air pollution and the villagers' heating costs.

"More than 800 tonnes of coal can be saved every year," said Li Shengguo, head of the village. "It will also cut total heating costs by a third."

Hao Fangya, an expert with China Association of Rural Energy Industry, said she hoped the technology could be spread to more villages in northeast China since Qinlao was very typical of the region.

"It will enhance villagers' quality of life and their environmental awareness," she said.

(Xinhua News Agency September 27, 2009)

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