Garbage mountains seriously affect people's lives in Mekong Delta region

July 28, 2023 - 06:38
Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of garbage which piled up like mountains, without comprehensive treatment measures, have been polluting the environment, affecting the lives of people in the Mekong Delta region.

VĨNH LONG — Năm Bụng from Vĩnh Long Province, has decided to dismantle a fish pond of over 1,000sq.m after being involved in fish farming for 30 years.

That pond had helped him start his business and pursue the work of raising fish for breeding.

The 69-year-old man said that over 20 years ago, the land behind his house was planned and built as a waste collection and treatment area.

In the rainy season, rainwater flowed into the canals, fields, rivers, and fish ponds.

Bụng witnessed red and stinky liquid in rainwater. The following day, he saw dead fish floating in the water.

"I could earn ten million đồng per month from that pond. But now it can not be used," Bụng told Dân Trí online newspaper.

In 2021, he dismantled the pond and kept only a small part to raise catfish and tilapia, which can survive in the polluted water.

For many years, when the waste dumped in Hòa Phú Commune became overloaded, nearby residents often face similar situations.

Lê Văn Liêm, chairman of Hòa Phú Commune People's Committee affirmed that the waste dump has directly affected the lives and production of households engaged in rice cultivation and aquaculture.

Bụng had foreseen this scenario when he learned that Vĩnh Long Province had chosen the location in Hòa Phú Commune as a waste collection site.

At that time, he saw dozens of garbage trucks every day. The foul smell of garbage has pervaded the roof, clothing, crops, land, and even water sources.

"My pond is now situated lower than the landfill, of course, I have to suffer from dirty water flowing in. Even if I accidentally get that water on my feet, I will get rash," said Phan Văn Nhí, a resident of Hòa Phú Commune.

For generations, the Nhí family has been engaged in digging ponds for fish farming.

Everything remained peaceful until the Phương Thảo Waste Treatment Factory ceased its operations, threatening the fish farming households like Nhí.

In August, heavy rains swept the water and garbage out of the factory, pouring into the fish ponds, killing all the fish.

At the beginning of 2023, the Vĩnh Long provincial authorities declared a state of emergency for the Hòa Phú Commune landfill.

The landfill covers an area of 19ha with a capacity of 74,000 tonnes. However, it is currently exceeding its capacity by three times, and it still receives an additional 350 tonnes of waste daily, which is handled manually through burial, chemical spraying, and deodorisation.

"The landfill is like a hanging water tank, with a foul smell every day. For the past 25 years, we have been managing the Hòa Phú landfill reactively, but we haven't applied fundamental and scientific solutions," said Lê Minh Thiện, a delegate of the People's Council of Long Hồ District.

On July 19, the People's Committee of Vĩnh Long Province announced that they had approved the investment policy for the project to build a domestic waste treatment plant.

The plant will be built in the Hòa Phú Solid Waste Treatment Complex, covering an area of approximately 7.63ha, with an estimated investment capital of around VNĐ500 billion.

The plant is expected to operate for 50 years and start construction in the third quarter of 2024, be put in use by early 2026. The designed capacity of the plant is to process 500 tonnes of waste per day.

Not only in Vĩnh Long Province, the situation is also seen in other Mekong Delta localities including Cần Thơ, Bạc Liêu, Trà Vinh, Tiền Giang, Kiên Giang and Bến Tre.The Department of Natural Resources and Environment of Cần Thơ City also recently reported that the total amount of waste has reached 700 tonnes per day. This figure has surpassed the city's treatment capacity.

Since 2020, waste has become a pressing issue in Bạc Liêu and Trà Vinh provinces.

The Vĩnh Hồ landfill in Bạc Liêu and Sâm Bua landfill in Trà Vinh, despite being full, still have to receive hundreds of tonnes of waste from other districts.

According to a study by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) published in the Tài Nguyên & Môi Trường (Resources & Environment) online newspaper, the total amount of domestic waste in the entire Mekong Delta region is currently reaching 14,000 tonnes per day (equivalent to 5 million tonnes per year).

This number is predicted to reach seven million tonnes by 2030, with around 300,000 tonnes of hazardous waste not being adequately treated.

The waste not only affects inland areas but also encroaches on coastal localities, posing a threat to tourist destinations and islands.

In Bạc Liêu Province, Phạm Văn Khải, a resident from Vĩnh Lợi District said his family owns more than 20,000sq.m of rice fields.

The rice crops grew very well.

However, since the garbage dump was established in Vĩnh Lợi District, the quality of the rice crops has been noticeably affected. Moreover, his family has always faced the issue of rats damaging their rice crops.

As a result, Khải and his wife have taken up rat-catching as an additional profession.

For over ten years, the landfill in Xóm Rẫy hamlet, Gò Công Đông District, Tiền Giang Province, has still been visible on the sea.

Tens of thousands of tonnes of waste, including plastic bottles and nylon, float all over the water, impacting tourism development and aquaculture farming households.

In Kiên Giang Province's Phú Quốc Island, known as the pearl island of Việt Nam, the serious issue of waste has also been recorded.

In December 2022, the Bãi Bổn Waste Treatment Plant suspended its trial operation due to failure to meet requirements, leading to a waste crisis on the island.

The Đồng Cây Sao dumping site, a temporary landfill, quickly emitted foul odours and led to flies and mosquitoes scouring a large area.

Phú Quốc receives 180 tonnes of solid household waste and 17,500cu.m of wastewater daily. This number is predicted to increase to 400 to 650 tonnes per day by 2025.

On the morning of July 20, local residents near the An Hiệp landfill in Ba Tri District, Bến Tre Province, gathered to block the road and put up banners to prevent garbage trucks from entering the landfill. Dozens of people take turns standing guard day and night, setting up tents to block garbage trucks.

Huỳnh Văn Châu, a local resident said that for the past 10 years since the landfill was established, his family's shrimp farming and other households have suffered losses.

Rubbish from the landfill flies into the ponds, polluting the water, and causing the shrimps to fall sick and die.

"The pollution has become more terrible. Over 100 garbage trucks come here every day, and the garbage is piled up like mountains. Rubbish flies around and the smoke from burning garbage often drifts into our homes. The smell is indescribable," said Châu.

Responding to the media, Bùi Minh Tuấn, the director of the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment, admitted that there was a foul odour spreading and waste seeping into the environment, causing pollution around the An Hiệp landfill.

He said Bến Tre Waste Treatment Plant in Châu Thành District has a capacity of processing 160 tonnes of waste per day but is temporarily closed due to causing pollution. Waste from everywhere is forced to transport to An Hiệp landfill, which is currently treating waste by burying it.

It is expected that within about 30 days, the situation will be under control as the relevant authorities complete the construction of fences around the landfill area and use tarpaulins to cover the garbage, Tuấn said. — VNS