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Waste solutions unenforceable
Thursday,  7/12/2018, 20:51 

Waste solutions unenforceable

By Son Nguyen

The topic of handling waste disposal is being unearthed again at the ongoing meeting of the HCMC People’s Council, as the environment is still worsening despite numerous solutions have been adopted. Discussions at the meeting this Wednesday have made big headlines in local media, not only because of the severity of the problem, but also owing to the solutions being revisited time and again without the desired enforceability.

To sum up the problem, the director of the city’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Nguyen Toan Thang, told the meeting that out of 8,700 tons of garbage discharged daily in the city, some 2,300 tons is littered in public places. “If this amount of trash is not properly collected and treated, it will pose serious problems of pollution and flooding,” he is quoted as saying by news website Vnexpress.

The reality, as pinpointed in detail by Council members at the meeting, is much more worrying.

Used plastic bags and bottles, home furniture and even bedding items like pillows are littered on the street that may end up in the sewage system, and the Steering Center of the Urban Flood Control Program in HCMC has begged other relevant agencies to come to its rescue as garbage is being rampantly discharged on hundreds of streets in the city, according to Tuoi Tre.

Speaking at the Council meeting, Department of Transport director Bui Xuan Cuong said that many of the 68,000 manholes in the city are blocked by garbage, aggravating flooding upon heavy rain or flood tides, says Phap Luat Online. According to Cuong, the HCMC Steering Center of the Urban Flood Control Program, which is under his department, directly manages just 35% of water drainage facilities – which include 4,176 kilometers of sewer, 68,000 manholes, and over 1,000 sewer gates – while the remainder is put under the management of district authorities. As such, flooding caused by garbage is beyond the center’s capacity.

“The most important task is to control the discharge of garbage in the city,” Cuong is quoted in Tuoi Tre, calling for efforts to raise public awareness of environmental protection.

Relating how careless disposal of garbage in public places may aggravate flooding, Bui Van Truong, director of the HCMC Urban Drainage Company Limited, says in Tuoi Tre that huge volumes of garbage are often extracted from inside sewers and manholes. The upper section of the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal alone is on the receiving end of dozens of tons of garbage each day, he says.

“A disaster of flooding will occur if workers do not timely extract garbage,” says Truong, adding that hundreds of workers are dispatched to collect waste upon any downpour, but the company’s workforce is incapable of doing so given tens of thousands of sewage holes in the city.

The harsh reality of rampant disposal of garbage onto the street has persisted for years, and several Council members at the meeting stressed that if no drastic measures are taken, 20 years from now the issue will remain unaddressed, according to Vietnamnet news website.

Environmental hygiene and traffic order are two key criteria for appraising the development level of a city, says Council member Nguyen Le Minh Quang on Vnexpress. According to him, these two issues are especially striking in the city that must be addressed soon.

Many Council members agreed at the meeting that people’s poor awareness coupled with the ineffective solutions and low enforceability of regulations are some of the key reasons behind the situation.

“Conformity to regulations must be heightened like in other countries,” says Council member Nguyen Thanh Tri on Vnexpress. “When travelling to Singapore or Thailand, (Vietnamese) people dare not toss a cigarette end onto the street, but in Vietnam, those same people are ready to throw a bag of trash into the river,” he is quoted as saying.

Nguyen Toan Thang of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment stressed that aside from propaganda to raise awareness, tough sanctions must be taken against violators, according to Lao Dong. “There are regulations allowing for financial sanctions of a maximum of VND7 million against violators, and the authority to slap such fines has been delegated to ward leaders,” Thang said, adding if sanctions are not taken seriously, public awareness can hardly be raised.

Council delegate Phan Nguyen Nhu Khue agreed, saying heavy sanctions are required as the public awareness on environmental protection remains low, according to the Vietnam News Agency. Meanwhile, delegate Le Nguyen Minh Quang said that the enforcement of punitive sanctions should not be limited to State agencies, and suggested that such a job be handed over to other non-public entities.

“We should be bold to hand over the enforcement job to non-public entities so as to restore orders in both traffic and environmental protection,” Quang is quoted by Vnexpress.

Apart from public awareness issue, other Council members also pointed the finger at government agencies for their failure to accomplish their mandates.

“While public awareness remains low, State management must play a pivotal role,” said delegate Nguyen Thi To Tram. She reasoned that for the rampant discharge of waste into the environment, “if the public is to blame one, the government is to blame ten… as authorities have not been serious in applying sanctions. That shows the dereliction of duty,” she is quoted by Vnexpress.

Nguyen Thi Quyet Tam, chairwoman of the People’s Council, agreed on the point, saying the legal corridor to govern waste discharge is sufficient, but enforcement has been lackluster, resulting in widespread violations. She suggested that a two-pronged approach be taken, strongly taking punitive sanctions on one hand and raising public awareness on the issue on the other.

Commenting on the solution to raise awareness, Lao Dong says State officials should take on the bandwagon first. “Members of the HCMC People’s Council should be the first to have one day cleaning up the street; then come civil servants from other departments, social organizations, and schools. Only when directly doing the cleanup job will the people build up the awareness of not discharging waste into the environment,” says the paper.

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