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Stench from landfill haunts residential areas in southern Ho Chi Minh City

Monday, July 02, 2018, 19:30 GMT+7
Stench from landfill haunts residential areas in southern Ho Chi Minh City
People ride in the Phu My Hung New Urban Area in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Life of residents in southern Ho Chi Minh City has become miserable as a foul odor going with seasonal winds from a local dumpsite has hit their homes.

To the south of the city are sections of suburban Nha Be and Binh Chanh Districts, and the entire part of District 7, which is famous for its Phu My Hung New Urban Area with multiple luxury apartments and services for high-income dwellers.

The Da Phuoc Landfill, the metropolis’ largest waste treatment site receiving around 66 percent of the city’s urban waste daily, sits right in Binh Chanh District and has lately plagued those living in the neighboring areas.

The landfill’s reek was in the air whenever strong winds blew in, said Nguyen Thi Huyen, a local in the Phu My Hung area, about ten kilometers to the northeast of the vast dump – a direction that wind blows in the rainy season from May to around November.

An unpleasant odor was quite palpable even in a still period of the day.

Pham Hoai Thuy Duong, a tenant at the Belleza apartment building in District 7, said many other dwellers at the high-rise had to close the doors and windows to prevent the stench.

Duong said ever since she began living in this place, the cost of her household electricity consumption has increased three times because the family turned on the air conditioners behind the doors and windows closed all day long.

In order to show that the smell became more unpleasant at a greater elevation, Duong opened a window of her flat on the 18th floor, and then an overpowering sickly odor came in.

This situation has lasted over the past several years, she added.

Children usually stay indoors and are seen at the playground less often.

“I often exercise in the morning. But whenever I open the door, I’m completely put off by the smell that makes me think I’m living near a piggery or garbage dump,” said Hong, a Phu My Hung resident.

On Sunday the smell also spoiled the appetite and enjoyment of lunch, forcing many patrons at a number of restaurants in District 7 to stop having their meal partway and the establishments to close earlier than usual.

“On such a scorching day, my family had no other ways but grabbing the meal. We can’t really stand this pervasive odor,” said Vu Thi Sinh, the owner of a local restaurant.

The Da Phuoc Landfill (black) is seen in this bird’s eye view. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The Da Phuoc Landfill is seen in this bird’s eye view. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Several people in the Phu My Hung area took grassroots action by creating a Facebook account to chronicle episodes of foul odors.

The Facebook page has received such reports from over 1,200 local residents, many of whom decided to print out their so-called ‘bad-smell diary’ to send it to the municipal authorities.

Relevant agencies and Vietnam Waste Solutions – the company managing the Da Phuoc Landfill – have not provided any explanation or solution.

In the meantime, Le Van Khoa, an enviroment lecturer from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, believes that it is a mistake in urban planning to place a garbage dump in the vicinity of the Phu My Hung area.

Khoa said that the Da Phuoc Landfill is now overloaded, hence waste is not properly treated, resulting in the stench.

The solution, he added, would be diminishing the amount of garbage for burial and tightening the control over waste treatment.

But Pham Viet Thuan, from the Institute of Economics, Natural Resources and Environment in the southern metropolis, suggested taking the site away from the urban areas or converting it into a place for what he called closed-loop incineration.

The reason, he said, is that the emission of gases and unpleasant smells is inevitable at landfills.

A truck runs from the Da Phuoc Landfill in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A truck runs from the Da Phuoc Landfill in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

This is not the first time the widespread presence of bad smell has been noted.

In August 2016, people in southern Ho Chi Minh City reported a type of trash-like odor in their area – a high-profile case that made its way to the prime minister.

When the Da Phuoc Landfill was identified as the 'culprit,' Vietnam Waste Solutions was fined over VND1.5 billion ($66,000) in June 2017 for its multiple violations, including negligence in leachate treatment and storage, and discharge of toxic wastewater.

The firm was slow in improving the landfill facilities, according a report by the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment early this year.

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Thai Xuan / Tuoi Tre News

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