Southern Saigon residents suffer headaches from landfill stench

By Huu Nguyen, Minh Tan   July 27, 2019 | 05:15 pm PT
Southern Saigon residents suffer headaches from landfill stench
A bird's eye view of the Da Phuoc Landfill in Binh Chanh District, Ho Chi Minh City’s main garbage dump, in June 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
Stench from the Da Phuoc Landfill in Binh Chanh District forces many southern HCMC residents to keep windows shut and remain indoors.

Residents of District 7, Binh Chanh District and Nha Be District are hit hardest by the odor, especially after the rains and early mornings and evenings.

District 7 is home to the Phu My Hung urban area where a large expat community lives and many residential complexes such as La Casa, The Era Town and Belleza.

The rainy season in southern Vietnam, which lasts from mid-May to November, is the time when Ho Chi Minh City has high humidity. In such an atmosphere, residents say they have to keep their windows shut and air conditioners on all the time and refrain from going outside. Many say they feel dizzy and get headaches every time the stench hits them.

The residents in affected areas have created Facebook groups to keep one another posted about the malodor. They have sent several petitions to district authorities and the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment, asking them to intervene and find a solution.

Dau Thien Hoang Anh, a resident of the Grand View high-rise complex in Tan Phong Commune, District 7, said: "For years now, people here know that the stench comes from the Da Phuoc Landfill. Sometimes I feel like I am walking through a pile of feces. I’m deeply disappointed. I think I might move somewhere else, living like this is too awful."

"The people invest billions of dong (VND1 billion = $43,150) to enjoy a civilized urban life here, but for several years we have to suffer from this horrendous smell. It lasts for 5-6 months during the rainy season, making us miserable," said Nguyen Xuan Huong, also from Grand View.

Locals say many garbage delivery vehicles pass by on the way to the Da Phuoc Landfill, emitting a stink that disturbs hundreds of families nearby. Some even go to sleep with their face masks on.

The landfill in Da Phuoc Commune, Binh Chanh District receives 5,600 tons of domestic waste, or more than two thirds of the city’s total, daily. So far it has been dealing with a majority of garbage simply by burying it, and this has been blamed for the pervasive stink.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment has acknowledged the situation about the complex  in a letter sent to the HCMC People’s Committee.

The department said it has discussed measures to control the smell with Vietnam Waste Solutions (VWS), which operates the Da Phuoc Integrated Waste Management Facility, one of the three facilities in the complex.

The measures include spraying more deodorants prior to the rainy season, and at other timeframes when residents say the odor hits them the hardest (4 p.m - 7 p.m, 12 a.m - 1 a.m, 5 a.m - 6 a.m) as well as adjusting waste burial times to minimize the odor dispersal in the area.

"VWS has received these suggestions and we are committed to implementing them immediately," the letter said. The city’s waste treatment complexes management body will assess the effectiveness of the measures, it added.

HCMC Chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong last week asked the department to get tough on waste treatment facilities and require them to use new technology and minimize pollution, failing which the companies will be suspended.

The stench has been badly affecting residents in the southern districts of HCMC since mid-2016.

In 2017, VWS was slapped with a VND1.5 billion ($64,700) fine by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment along with a request that they terminate their illegal storage of wastewater and quickly treat all wastewater stored in one of its compartments.

Many of the landfills in Vietnam do not meet environmental requirements and they upset people living nearby, Nguyen Thuong Hien, head of the Vietnam Environment Administration’s waste management department said at a press conference on July 10.

There is no solid waste treatment model in the country that meets all technical, economic, social, and environmental requirements, he added, saying burying a majority of the waste not only pollutes the environment but also means the country is unable to recycle garbage.

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