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Ho Chi Minh City manufacturing facilities pose serious health hazard

Thursday, July 21, 2016, 18:33 GMT+7

Communities in Binh Chanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, continue to suffer the effects of severe air pollution as three manufacturing facilities release poisonous exhaust.

Chemical discharges from three factories have dramatically impacted the standard of living in the area, and created a threat to the overall health of residents in Binh Chanh Commune.

Resident Le Ngoc Ha, 59, spoke to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper about the pollution caused by a nearby scrap plant.

“Whenever the plants mix their chemicals during my family’s meal, we have to stop eating and flee as none of us can stand the smell,” she explained.

“Most people here shut their doors the whole day,” Ha recounted, adding that should one need to clean their yards, face-masks are the must-haves, “even when sleeping.”

Nguyen Ngoc Oanh, another local, complained, “Whenever rain falls, the wastewater from the factories whiten the ground,” adding that it turns into layers of ‘whitish solid mass’ after it dries.

Nguyen Van Nghiem nodded in agreement, “My family no longer uses water from wells for daily use because of the ground pollution.

“We switch to cooking with rainwater and buy bottled water for drinking.”

Nguyen Van Ho, 72, and his wife have sued the scrap facility three times as they can no longer bear the noise and unnatural odors, but the issue remains unsolved, forcing the elderly couple to continue living with the situation.

Residents revealed an extended length of the Ba Lang Canal that had turned a crimson shade of red, due to a colorant used to dye sedge mats. “It used to be a pristine water passage with schools of fish gathering en masse,” said P., a local. “Now fish no longer thrive as the water is heavily contaminated with this reddish liquid, which also poses a great threat to our paddies.”

According to P., the rice paddies are completely dependent upon water sourced from the Ba Lang Canal.

“We can no longer use the water for irrigation; the rice is withering,” she explained.

Facing health hazards

As Tuoi Tre newspaper reporters talked to residents close to the factory of Viet Trung Plastics Co. Ltd. in Binh Chanh Commune, they met Thanh Nghia, a resident suffering respiratory infection for years.

“The smell [from the factory] irritates my eyes and nose,” Nghia said, explaining that the odor irritates his throat and gives him a runny nose.

Pointing at Binh Minh, 8, a child of a family next to the plastics facility, Nghia said that the kid will undergo a pneumectomy this July.

“He has breathed this polluted dusty air since he was born, leading to him suffering from this respiratory problem,” Hien, Minh’s mother, said.

“He cannot sleep due to rhinorrhea, making him struggle to breathe,” she added.

In Hamlet 3, most families have members of their family suffering from respiratory conditions, including that of Nguyen Van Nghiem, whose relatives suffer from chronic respiratory infections.

“I have two grandchildren, both of whom usually have days-off from school due to illnesses,” Oanh said, adding that she would bring the children to a home of her relatives in order to improve their health.

But pollution is within the allowable level, the Binh Chanh District People’s Committee said, citing a statistical report released in February.

Considering relocation: officials

According to local residents, the plastics facility has been fined five times, but it continues polluting environment.

“We have reported this many times to local authorities,” Pham Van Tro from Hamlet 3 said, adding that nothing has changed as the plant keeps discharging contaminants into the atmosphere.

“I requested that the complex relocate away from the residential area as fining them seems to be ineffective,” Le Van Nhon, a local resident, said.

Answering Tuoi Tre, Luong Trong Quyen, deputy chairman of the Binh Chanh Commune People’s Committee, said that local officials had examined the pollution caused by Viet Trung Plastics Co. Ltd. and asked the Binh Chanh District People’s Committee to relocate the plant away from residential areas.

In response to the relocation of the plant, Nguyen Kim Mai, deputy chief of Binh Chanh District’s Natural Resources and Environment Bureau, said, “Local officials have discussed the relocation.”

“We will inspect 510 facilities polluting the environment in the region and send our results to the municipal People’s Committee,” she added.

“The district’s authorities punished the company for contaminating the environment in late 2015, but it was not strict enough to deter them from backsliding,” Mai explained when talking about the pollution that the company continues to cause, adding that no further inspections have been carried out since then.

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