A fire truck was imported to Viet Nam at a cost of more than US$1 million, but it has not extinguished a single fire.
The truck includes a 72 metre ladder system—the first of its kind in Viet Nam. It was imported to put out fires in high-rise buildings, which require a tall ladder and an engine with high water capacity. However, these assets turned out to be hindrances.
In 2002, a severe fire broke out at the International Trade Centre in HCM City's District 1. The vehicle was sent to the scene but failed to stamp out the fire. As many as 60 people were killed and 70 others were injured.
The street where the centre was located was too narrow for the ladder system to expand vertically. Additionally, the centre had only six floors; the ladder was designed to reach the top of a 22-storey building.
Since then, the vehicle has only been used for high-rise building fire drills.
Compounding the problem, the fire truck weighs 48 tonnes, far higher than the capacity of many bridges. As a result, the truck can only travel on a restricted number of routes.
Worse, it sometimes has problems that cost 10,000-12,000 euros ($13,700 - $16,400) to repair.
Fires remain a problem in the city. Last October, a fire broke out in a building under construction in District 3. Luckily, no fatalities were reported.
Last month, Chairman of the municipal People's Committee Le Hoang Quan approved the plan of the city's Fire Prevention and Control Department to invest in firefighting equipments. After 14 years, the truck will be replaced.
Can elbow grease clean Ha Noi's lakes?
Ha Noi's Department of Natural Resources and Environment has installed human-powered water-filtration machines on Thanh Nhan Lake in Hai Ba Trung District and Ngoc Khanh Lake in Ba Dinh District. The machines use power generated by physical exercise to filter the polluted water, a method that aims to clean water while saving money and encouraging city dwellers to exercise.
Ha Noi has 120 lakes and ponds in six districts in the inner city, of which 95 per cent are contaminated with organic matter and 71 per cent contain excessive chemicals, according to the Centre for Environment and Community Research.
However, many experts pointed out that the machines can only clean a small amount of water, even when used round-the-clock. Thus, they won't save much money.
While the initiative might not bring a green and clean environment to the city, it can at least encourage physical fitness.
That is, if you don't mind breathing polluted air while you exercise!
Tet bonuses go under the knife
During the current economic downturn, businesses have to tighten their belts and reserve limited budgets for Tet bonuses.
Last year, local press reported that many enterprises had to use their own products as gifts for workers on the occasion of Tet. Garment workers received clothes, footwear workers got shoes and food manufacturers received rice, vegetable oil and sugar.
But this year, the situation seems to have worsened. A garment and textile company on Ha Noi's Hoang Mai Street decided to use 70 pairs of shorts – unsold since the summer – as a Tet bonus for workers.
Tran Thi Hai, a worker, moaned that the shorts were useless in the cold weather. Why couldn't they give out warm pants?
Workers at a building material company in Thai Nguyen City's Luong Ngoc Quyen Street fared even worse. According to the company director, the real estate market was so gloomy that most of his products remained unsold. The company had no money for Tet bonuses, so they offered each worker a package of 200 bricks. — VNS