Dust emissions from construction sites need stricter controls

June 18, 2024 - 08:21
On National Highway 32 section of Kim Chung Commune of Hoài Đức District, pedestrians struggle to navigate through 'dust storms' from a construction sites by the road during hot summer days.
The section of National Highway 32 in Kim Chung Commune of Hoài Đức District is shrouded in dust from the nearby construction site. — Photo kinhtedothi.vn

HÀ NỘI — In recent years, Hà Nội has witnessed a boom in construction projects with high-rise buildings, new urban areas and increased transport infrastructure, transforming the city.

However, the huge amount of development comes at a cost, with concerns about air pollution caused by dust from construction sites.

On National Highway 32 section through Kim Chung Commune of Hoài Đức District, pedestrians struggle to navigate through 'dust storms' from a construction sites by the road during hot summer days.

The entire stretch of road, spanning hundreds of metres, is scattered with mud and in the heat this mud is turned into large dust clumps on the road. Each passing vehicle stirs up these dust clumps, creating a storm that blows directly into pedestrians' faces, severely affecting their health and posing a significant risk of traffic accidents.

This is just one small example of the air pollution caused by dust from construction sites that is occurring in the capital city.

According to environmental experts, dust from construction activities is one of the primary sources of air pollution in Hà Nội.

Fine particulate matter PM2.5 and PM10 from construction activities can severely harm human health, causing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

Research showed that fine dust can penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream, leading to serious health problems such as pneumonia, asthma and even cancer.

In addition to the direct impact on human health, construction dust also negatively affects the surrounding living environment. Plants and vegetation covered by dust lose their ability to photosynthesise, impacting their growth and development.

Furthermore, construction dust reduces air quality, creating a hazy and life-less cityscape.

Although environmental protection and anti-dust regulations have been issued, many construction sites in the city still do not implement these measures effectively.

Construction sites lack proper shielding, trucks carrying construction materials are uncovered and water spraying to reduce dust is insufficient. This leads to dust and mud spreading to the surrounding environment, causing severe air pollution.

Additionally, some construction sites use sidewalks and roads to store construction materials without proper covering or protection, allowing dust and mud from these materials to be blown by the wind and spread across the surrounding areas, affecting people’s lives.

Particularly during hot days, dust from construction sites can easily travel far, exacerbating air pollution.

Dust control measures at construction sites are not strictly implemented. Many sites only temporarily spray water, which is insufficient to reduce the dust generated. The use of dust extraction equipment and misting machines is not widespread, resulting in continuous dust dispersion and air pollution.

A recent study by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment showed that the environmental quality of the whole country, particularly Hà Nội, has deteriorated significantly.

Each year, the city’s air receives about 80,000 tonnes of dust, 9,000 tonnes of SO2, 19,000 tonnes of NO2, and 46,000 tonnes of CO2.

The demolition, excavation and transportation of materials and the use of high-powered diesel engines at construction sites emit harmful gases like SO2, NOx, and CO, affecting the health of residents over a wide area around the construction sites.

Comprehensive solutions needed

Recently, the city authority has implemented various measures to limit sources of air pollution, installing 35 automatic air monitoring stations and six surface water monitoring stations to monitor the quality of emissions and wastewater from industrial zones and production facilities.

The city has planted many trees, switched to using clean energy vehicles and implemented emission testing for old motorcycles and motorbikes as well as instructed relevant agencies to increase inspections and handle production facilities and construction sites causing pollution, considered investments to upgrade parks and lakes, and required environmental sanitation units to increase street cleaning and waste collection to limit pollution.

However, experts reckon that these measures are just temporary solutions because pollutant sources are out of control.

To reduce air pollution caused by construction dust, stronger and more effective measures are necessary.

Experts believe that to address the issue of construction dust spreading into the environment, there must be strong regulations and sanctions to compel investors and contractors to comply. For example, they have to use dust control technology such as misting machines or installing automatic dust extraction systems at construction sites and contractors need to be encouraged to use environmentally friendly construction materials that produce less dust.

These solutions are effectively used in many advanced countries worldwide.

However, in Việt Nam, many contractors and investors avoid using these solutions to save costs or for other reasons.

From a legal perspective, lawyer Bùi Đình Ứng from the Hà Nội Bar Association stated that there are penalties for causing dust pollution during construction.

Article 15 of Decree 16/2022/NĐ-CP stipulates fines ranging from VNĐ30 to 50 million (US$1,200-1,900) for failing to implement safety and environmental protection measures such as not spraying water to reduce dust when constructing in residential areas, Ứng said.

Meanwhile, Article 16 of Decree 16/2022/NĐ-CP also stipulates fines ranging from VNĐ3-5 million ($120-190) for constructors without proper shielding, causing construction materials to fall into surrounding areas or placing materials in non-designated areas, depending on the type of construction, he said.

Additionally, the Environmental Protection Law 2020 has clear regulations regarding environmental protection at construction sites.

The lawyer noted that penalties for causing environmental pollution from construction works have been issued but required strict supervision and management to make them effective.

The role of local authorities and regulatory agencies is crucial, he said. — VNS