Modernize or close down, HCMC chairman warns waste treatment plants

By Trung Son, Dien Ha   July 20, 2019 | 04:55 pm PT
Modernize or close down, HCMC chairman warns waste treatment plants
Da Phuoc, the biggest landfill in Ho Chi Minh City, July 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
HCMC Chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong on Friday ordered waste treatment plants to apply advanced technologies or face suspension.

Phong said at a city meeting that he was losing his patience because the city has been calling for the modernization for more than two years, but there were zero projects using advanced technologies to treat garbage.

Residents of the Phu My Hung area in the city’s southern District 7 have continuously complained about the odor from the Da Phuoc landfill in neighboring Binh Chanh District while others have made the same complaint about landfills in Cu Chi District.

"We have to handle this problem with determination," he said.

Phong compared HCMC’s situation with that of Can Tho, the Mekong Delta hub, which already has a waste-to-energy project invested by a Hong Kong firm.

"They [Can Tho] used to suffer serious pollution but now they have already succeeded. They did not talk but acted."

The biggest city in Vietnam, HCMC currently has three waste treatment plants that handle 8,700 tons of domestic waste discharged by a population of 13 million each day.

Operated by Vietnam Waste Solutions (VWS), the Da Phuoc Integrated Waste Management Facility receives 5,700 tons and treats them mostly by burying.

Tam Sinh Nghia Investment Development Joint Stock Company and Vietstar Joint Stock Company are handling the rest in Cu Chi District by burning and making compost.

Aside from the unpleasant smell, the facilities in Cu Chi have discharged ash and polluted the environment.

The city has targeted reducing the amount of waste buried to under 50 percent by next year.

Tam Sinh Nghia and VietStar are revising their investment licenses and asking for permission to build two new plants with total capacity of 6,000 tons per day to burn waste and get energy.

If they get the permits in time, the two firms will start work on their projects later this year.

At Da Phuoc, the investor had pledged to switch to burning 2,000 tons of trash it receives each day to get energy, said Nguyen Toan Thanh, director of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

For other waste treatment projects that the city had agreed to in principle, the department will work with the municipal administration to shorten the bidding process and boost progress, aiming to start such projects next year, he said.

City Chairman Phong said the city will look at Thanh’s statement as a promise for progress in applying advanced waste treatment technologies.

HCMC seeks to pioneer the sorting of trash at home and rolled out a plan for it last year. All households have to separate organic and inorganic waste after 2020 or pay a fine.

Since last November local authorities have been guiding households and businesses on sorting their daily waste into organic, recycled and other trash by putting labels on bins. Districts and communes have been asked to try various methods to choose their optimal sorting process.

If garbage is classified properly, organic waste could be used to make compost, inorganic waste could be recycled and the rest could be buried or burned.

Bui Trong Hieu, chairman of the HCMC Urban Environment Company Limited, said of the 8,700 tons of trash discarded daily, plastic accounts for 1,800 tons but a mere 200 tons, or 11 percent, is collected for recycling.

At a meeting in May, environment department director Thang said apart from domestic waste, the city generates 1,500-2,000 tons of industrial waste, 1,200-1,600 tons of construction debris, 22 tons of medical waste, and more than 2,000 tons of sludge every day.

He sounded a dire warning: If it continues to bury its garbage and does not find other ways to treat it, it would run out of space for landfills by next year.

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