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Public ignore stiff fines for littering

Update: February, 06/2017 - 11:00
A Hanoian dumps garbage at the junction of Nguyễn Cao and Lê Quý Đôn streets on February 02. — Photo tienphong.vn
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — Regulations imposing stiff fines on littering and urinating in public spaces took effect almost a week ago (February 1), but most Hanoians are unaware of this, a local report says.

The Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper also said that the lack of awareness of new rules has been reflected in continued littering in public spaces.

Government Decree 155/2016/NĐ-CP imposes fines of VNĐ3 million (US$133) to VNĐ7 million ($313) on those littering in public spaces, including pavements, streets or sewage systems in residential areas, especially large cities like Hà Nội and HCM City.

Fines between VNĐ500,000 ($22) and VNĐ1 million ($44) will be imposed on those who throw cigarette butts and ash in no-smoking areas, including shopping malls and residential areas.

Those who urinate in public spaces and others crowded like shopping malls, pavements and parks will also be fined between VNĐ1 million ($44) and VNĐ3 million ($133).

The Tiền Phong’s report said that on February 02, in front of the popular Tràng Tiền ice-cream parlour near the Hoàn Kiếm (Returned Sword) Lake, ice-cream sticks and packs were thrown on the pavement and the street despite many trash bins nearby.

On nearby Lê Thạch Street, which hosts many bookstalls, buyers discarded receipts and plastic bags on the street. Many pedestrians around Hoàn Kiếm Lake also threw empty bottles, candy and biscuit wrappers on the street and flower beds were strewn with the litter.

Of the 20 people that the newspaper talked to, just two said they knew of the new decree. Many people did not know about the rules because they had come into force during the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday, the report said.

Nguyễn Thanh Tùng, a resident of Hà Nội’s Hà Đông District, who did not know about the new rules, said people were continuing to throw trash, cigarette butts, chewing gum in public spaces.

However, he felt that the fines should be imposed gradually, because the incomes of Vietnamese people remained low. It would be difficult to impose such heavy fines, he said.

Habit, attitude

Nguyễn Thị Hoa, a cleaner with Hà Nội Urban Environment One Member Co Ltd said “The Vietnamese feel no emotion on seeing rubbish. I’ve seen that when many foreigners see rubbish, they pick it up and put it in the waste baskets.”

Hoa welcomed the new rules, saying they would make her job easier, and raise public awareness about environmental protection and urban beauty.

According to Decree 155, chairpersons of ward, district and provincial administrations have the authority to impose penalties. Police officers, heads of police departments at ward level or at a border gate or export processing zones are authorised to impose fines of up to VNĐ2.5 million ($111).

Maritime police, chief inspectors of local departments of natural resources and environment and others of similar rank are also qualified to impose fines, besides chief inspectors of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, head of the Việt Nam Environment Administration and head of Pollution Management Department.

Sceptics abound

Many people doubt that the new rules are feasible, the newspaper reported.

Phan Văn Sơn, who was cycling around Hoàn Kiếm Lake, said there must be clear evidence for imposing such heavy fines. There must be cameras and supervisors, and these are not very easy to organise, he said.

Nguyễn Văn Nam, a resident of Hà Nội’s Bắc Từ Liêm District agreed with the need for regulations, but felt they were too general and not clear enough. Who will be punished and who will do the punishing is not clear, he said.

Meanwhile, management boards of relics nationwide are trying to disseminate the new rules to visitors, given that large numbers of people flock to tourism sites during the first lunar month.

Nguyễn Nam Nho, head of Sóc Temple management board in Sóc Sơn District, said they were not fining people for littering. They are still trying to increase public awareness and placing additional waste baskets to discourage people from littering.

Hard, but necessary

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Trần Hồng Hà, said that the ministry, acting as an environment management agency, had compiled the rules.

He said rules remind residents that certain actions are wrong, and are applied in many countries. The punishments as well as the feasibility of rules depend on relevant State management agencies and the society a whole, he said.

Neighbouring countries like Singapore and China have tightened controls over littering and urinating in public areas, he noted.

In Singapore, violators are not only monetarily fined, they also have their names publicised on media and are required to do community service.

Hà said that to boost the new decree’s feasibility, management agencies carrying out research whose findings will be applied to bring out more detailed and specific regulations, clearly identifying who will punish and who will be punished. — VNS

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