Ho Chi Minh City to close polluting cement mill after relocation falls through

By VnExpress   December 23, 2016 | 07:22 pm PT
Ho Chi Minh City to close polluting cement mill after relocation falls through
The grinding factory of Ha Tien Cement Company in Ho Chi Minh City's Thu Duc District. Photo courtesy of Nguoi Lao Dong
The Ha Tien unit, asked to move many times since 2003, no longer has a place in the city's vision for a green, modern future.

Ho Chi Minh City is going to shut down a major cement factory next week over environmental concerns after several attempts to relocate the plant.

Ha Tien Cement, a leading producer in the country, has been ordered to end all operations at its grinding unit in the northeastern district of Thu Duc by December 31.

The polluting plant, occupying a 104-hectare area near residential suburbs, has slashed its output from 1.7 million tons a year to one million ton since mid-2015.

It has been asked to move many times since 2003, and at least twice last year. The decision to close the plant came after all those attempts failed.

Last year the company reportedly sought permission to relocate the unit to neighboring District 9, a proposal turned down by the city due to a new urban vision for the district.

At a recent meeting with the company, municipal officials said that cement production is not encouraged under the city's urban development plan, which favors green industries and businesses in the processing and services sectors.

The metropolis, whose economy expanded 8 percent a year on average between 2011 and 2015, has been struggling with severe air pollution caused by both industrial activities and a huge army of vehicles.

The Real-time Air Quality Index on aqicn.org on Saturday morning ranked the pollution level here as “unhealthy,” which means outdoor exertion should be limited for children and people with respiratory problems. The index measures air pollution in 60 countries. The team is mainly based in Beijing, China, using measurements provided by the U.S. diplomatic mission in China and environment protection agencies worldwide.

A study by Vietnam’s environment ministry released last September showed that air pollution in the city has become worse between 2011 and 2015. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentration in District 1, for example, was found at twice the permitted level. High levels of nitrogen dioxide increase the chance of respiratory problems, reduce immunity to lung infections, causing problems such as coughing, cold, flu and bronchitis.

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