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Polluting brick kilns continue to operate despite official ban

Update: February, 23/2011 - 09:50
Brick kilns near the Hong (Red) River cause serious pollution in Van Phuc Commune in Ha Noi's Thanh Tri District. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuan Quyet

Brick kilns near the Hong (Red) River cause serious pollution in Van Phuc Commune in Ha Noi's Thanh Tri District. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuan Quyet

HA NOI — More than 900 traditional brick kilns, which are known for using low-quality coal and out-moded methods that cause massive air pollution and waste of agricultural land, are still operating despite a ban issued by city authorities two months ago, the municipal Department of Construction has said.

Reports from the department's recent inspection on the implementation of the city ban of traditional brick kilns showed that only about 400 of 1,278 kilns which had been banned by the city had stopped operations. The rest, mostly located near river banks or hills to take advantage of access to clay, had continued business illegally.

Specifically, Soc Son District had the highest number with 293, Phuc Tho District 147, Chuong My District 163, My Duc District 144 and Thach That District 119. The remainder are scattered through Dan Phuong, Phu Xuyen, Ba Vi, Ung Hoa and Son Tay districts.

About 20 per cent of the kilns lack chimneys. This creates potential workplace safety concerns, including carbon dioxide suffocation and potential collapse.

Poor management by local authorities and ignorant kiln owners who were only interested in profits were to blame for the situation.

Nguyen Thi Dinh, representative from Lien Trung Commune in Dan Phuong District said that the commune had forced 40 traditional brick kilns to close down twice but they all resumed operation after a short period.

"It's hard to control the situation as nearly half of the kilns only work during certain months," Dinh said.

Most of the kilns were located on the alluvial ground between adjoining communes which raised monitoring difficulties among local authorities, she said.

Dinh said the commune is planning to dismantle all of the kilns to avoid them from resuming operation in the coming time, but the 17ha of cultivated land, where the kilns are located, would not be able to be used for agriculture due to coal residues.

Can Van Thieu, an old-style brick kiln owner in Kim Quan Commune in Thach That District, said that brick production was a traditional industry that created jobs for thousands of local residents for years.

"What are we supposed to do if all of these kilns are eliminated?" he said.

To deal with the situation, the department has required local authorities not to extend contracts for traditional brick kilns, enforce a ban on kiln owners from using agricultural land for brick production and rapidly dismantle the low-quality kilns.

Local authorities will have to propose measures to encourage kiln owners to replace old traditional brick kilns with modern and friendly-environmental models. The new hi-tech model costs at least VND10 billion (US$480,000) to build with a 10 million brick capacity per year, which can save 42 per cent of coal use and lead to a six-fold reduction in carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide emissions compared to traditional models.

The department has completed a plan to develop materials for environmentally-friendly brick kilns by 2020 with a vision to 2030, as part of a programme to eliminate polluting traditional models. — VNS

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