by Vu Van Dat
NINH BINH — Pham Van Thien, a skilled stonemason, works every day in his densely dust covered village without the aid of a safety mask in Hoa Lu District's Ninh Van Commune in the northern province of Ninh Binh.
|A stonemason at a stonework craft village in Ninh Van Commune in the northern province of Ninh Binh. Villagers are suffering from severe air pollution. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue
"I don't feel any unusual symptoms, so I hardly ever go to the hospital," said Thien, who has worked as a stonemason for the past seven years.
I know the dust is very thick, but it's inconvenient for me to work with a mask, he said.
I don't wear glasses either because the dust sticks to the lenses and I can't see anything, he said.
The same can be said for many of the craftsmen in the village. Although they work in a substandard environment without safety equipment, they pay little attention to their health.
The development of stone craft in the village has contributed to the improvement of living conditions for local residents, however, it also pollutes the environment.
The 400-year-old village is about six kilometres from Ninh Binh City, and provides high-quality carvings to both domestic and international markets.
There are now 500 households and 3,000 local people who make a living from the industry in the village, according to statistics from the province.
Income from the job is estimated to account for 80 per cent of the village total.
People tend to work from home, so not only they but also those around them are affected by the pollution.
"I keep my door shut all day but the dust still gets in and sticks to the furniture," said Tran Minh Tranh of Tan Duong Village.
Statistics from the provincial Environment Protection Division showed that noise, dust and wastewater had heavily polluted the environment in the traditional craft village.
Thousands of tonnes of solid waste together with 95 cubic metres of wastewater are discharged into local ponds and lakes every day, the report said.
Air sample analysis showed that the dust concentration is 2-4 times higher than the permitted standard.
Nguyen Yen Binh, head of the Ninh Van Commune's Health Centre, said that people could contract diseases relating to the lungs or eyes due to the dust.
People also face the risk of tinnitus, sleeplessness and cardasthenia if they were subjected to the noise created by the work for a prolonged period of time, Binh said.
A recent periodical medical check-up conducted by the centre found that up to 30 per cent of the local population had contracted diseases such as pharyngitis, blepharitis and sinusitis.
In response to the situation, the provincial People's Committee approved a plan in 2005 to relocate some stone carving households to an area covering 23ha in Xuan Phuc and Xuan Thanh villages.
However, only 65 out of 500 households had been moved so far due to problems with agricultural land clearance, said Nguyen Quang Dieu, head of the Ninh Van Stone Craft Village's Management Board.
More than 2,800 local households still face the consequences of environmental pollution while they wait for a solution from authorised agencies. — VNS