HCM CITY — Smoke discharges from thousands of brick-kilns in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta have polluted the environment and impacted human health and agricultural productivity.
|Old brick kilns in southern Dong Thap Province's Chau Thanh District, together with thousands of similar ones in the Mekong Delta, discharge pollutants into the environment because a financial shortage makes it hard for kiln owners to switch to modern production methods. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Thi
Under a Government decision, all traditional brick-kilns were supposed to stop operations by December 31, 2010 but a lack of investment capital has made it difficult for owners to make the switch to modern production methods.
The southern province of Dong Thap had about 510 brick-kilns using traditional technology which was causing serious pollution, said Le Minh Hoan, chairman of the provincial People's Committee.
Cao Van Manh, 76, has lived in close proximity to 12 brick-kilns along the banks of the Sa Dec River for 37 years and blames his lung cancer on breathing in the kilns' smoke for such a long time.
One of Manh's neighbours said she used to plant fruit trees in her gardens but pollution from the kilns had gradually killed them.
Samples from recent air tests conducted by the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment showed that fluorhydric acid was the only regulated substance to surpass acceptable levels. Other toxins such as nitrite, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide were below the regulated levels.
The acid can destroy the cells in tree leaves and have a negative impact on productivity and quality. The acid can also cause congestion, inflame mucus membranes and cause lung diseases in people, said Nguyen Hong Mai, a chemistry lecturer at the Ha Noi National University.
Vu Thi Nhung, director of the Dong Thap Environmental Protection Department, said that the air samples could change at different moments in time, meaning the tests did not show comprehensive results about the level of pollution.
Provincial authorities researched the possibility of switching to more environmentally friendly tunnel brick-kilns but discovered they were too expensive for most producers, reaching up to VND10 billion (US$476,000) to construct, he said.
In addition, bricks produced in tunnel-kilns were double the price of those produced with traditional kilns making them difficult to sell, he said.
Meanwhile in the southern province of Vinh Long's Mang Thit District, tests were conducted on air samples taken from the Co Chien pottery kiln. Results showed that hafnium levels exceeded the regulated levels by 10-33 times, and the amount of carbon dioxide exceeded acceptable levels by 1.2-7.7 times.
The province currently has more than 1,350 brick manufacturing enterprises operating more than 2,000 kilns in Mang Thit and Long Ho districts, according to statistics of the provincial People's Committee.
More than 12,000 workers earn their living at the kilns.
Last year, the National Assembly Standing Committee asked the provincial authorities to provide assistance to brick manufacturing enterprises to minimise pollution but so far, no effective measures have been found.
Chairman of the Vinh Long People's Committee Nguyen Van Diep said the province had a plan to use Chinese brick kiln models, which ranged in price from VND400-600 million ($19,000-28,600) each.
However, the province was limited to lending VND30 million ($1,420) at a prime interest rate to each producer, causing most enterprises to hesitate about making the switch, he said. — VNS