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Fines not enough to deter noise pollution in Ho Chi Minh City: officials

Fines not enough to deter noise pollution in Ho Chi Minh City: officials

Wednesday, August 31, 2022, 16:11 GMT+7
Fines not enough to deter noise pollution in Ho Chi Minh City: officials
People sing karaoke using high-capacity loudspeakers on Pham Van Dong Boulevard in Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Despite hefty fines for making loud noise under Vietnam's Government Decree 45/2022, many officials still raise concerns on the effectiveness of the current solutions, saying that fines alone are not enough. More stringent sanctions and noise measuring devices are needed to curb noise pollution, especially in Ho Chi Minh City.

From August 25, those creating noise that exceeds limits by over 40 dBA will be subject to a fine of VND160-320 million (US$6,895-13,763).

Repeating violations despite fines

Noise from karaoke singing, beer stalls, pubs as well as production activities has sparked public concerns for years.

Truong Thuy Company, which produces ice in Tan Quy Ward, District 7 has been fined four times for causing noise that exceeds the permitted level but the firm continues to violate noise limits, affecting the life of surrounding residents.

Nguyen Thanh Nhan, a resident living next to the company, said his family has been heavily affected by the noise and vibration triggered during ice production.

His house’s walls vibrate due to the sound from machines being produced around the clock. His family has not had a good sleep for eight years.

He complained to the company about the noise but nothing changed.

Therefore, in 2020, he wrote to the People’s Committees of Tan Quy Ward and District 7 to report the problem.

According to the natural resources and environment office under the District 7 People’s Committee, from October 2020 to April 2021, the office checked and fined Truong Thuy Company three times for committing noise violations.

The environment police unit under the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Public Security also coordinated with the Tan Quy Ward police to inspect the company and found that the noise there surpassed the limit by five to 10 dBA.

Loudspeakers with a very high volume are commonly seen across Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tu Trung/ Tuoi Tre

Loudspeakers with a very high volume are commonly seen across Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tu Trung / Tuoi Tre

Therefore, the company was fined VND25 million ($1,075) and asked to come up with solutions to reduce noise.

However, Nhan said the situation has yet to improve, adding that his wife and children already moved to another place to live.

The company accepted the fines but did nothing to deaden the noise.

The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Council and the office of the municipal delegation of National Assembly deputies transferred the case to the District 7 authorities.

Besides noise from production activities, the residential areas are rife with noise from karaoke and loudspeakers.

Over the past few years, residents have repeatedly complained about the noise on Pham Van Dong Boulevard.

Local authorities have tried to keep noise pollution down but the issue persists.

No matter how late it is, beer stalls on the road play ear-splitting music through the night.

The noise pollution is also rampant in sit-down restaurants and beer stalls along Phan Xich Long, Mieu Noi, and Hoa Hong Streets in Phu Nhuan District.

Vo Man, living in the Mieu Noi tenement, said she could not sleep some days due to the loud karaoke noise.

When local residents complained about the issue to the authorities, some beer stalls even turned up the volume in revenge.

Noise measuring equipment, personnel needed

Earlier this year, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee required enhancing the handling of noise violations.

In particular, chairs of areas with noise violations, affecting the social order and security, will face sanctions.

Government Decree 45/2022 is expected to be a bold move to deal with noise violations. However, many districts say it is not enough.

They need devices to measure noise levels and training courses on the use of these devices.

According to Pham Bao Toan, head of the Phu Nhuan District natural resources and environment office, the district considers noise violations social order violations but has not yet measured noise levels.

“Professional units should be employed to measure noise levels,” Toan said, adding that if districts are provided with specialized devices, they should know how to measure noise properly, specifically determining the position to place the devices.

In some cases, violators tone down the volume when officials visit their houses or stalls to avoid sanctions.

In addition, there are regulations on punishing people making noise in public places. 

The district is not equipped with noise measuring devices, while the results measured by mobile phones are not accepted, Toan noted.  

He also proposed specifying regulations rather than measuring noise levels, which is only appropriate for businesses generating loud noise during production.

Ta Thanh Khiem, chairman of the People’s Committee of Ward 13, Binh Thanh District, said to reduce loud noise within its precincts, local authorities frequently patrol and remind those regularly generating such noise but they found it hard to impose sanctions on violators.

Pham Van Dong Boulevard in Ho Chi Minh City is well-known for beer stalls playing deafening music until midnight, causing noise pollution. Photo: Le Phan / Tuoi Tre

Pham Van Dong Boulevard in Ho Chi Minh City is well known for beer stalls playing deafening music until midnight, causing noise pollution. Photo: Le Phan / Tuoi Tre

To punish them, proof is required, which can be obtained by specialized teams and with noise measuring devices, Khiem added.

The ward suggested the Binh Thanh District People’s Committee launch a campaign against noise pollution with the participation of the natural resources and environment office.

It is unfeasible to develop a noise measuring force in each ward and equip them with specialized devices.

At present, the number of ward-level officials is small and they do not have experience in measuring noise levels, Khiem said.

With strict sanctions stated in Government Decree 45/2022, noise pollution is expected to be tackled.

However, cooperation among agencies and localities is necessary to execute the decree effectively.

Khiem suggested localities arrange plainclothes police at restaurants and beer stalls which are accused of making noise to accumulate evidence.

A representative of the People’s Committee of Ward 5, District 5, stated the view that it is hard to measure noise levels.

Ward 5 has not imposed sanctions on violators of regulations on noise control by measuring noise levels, he added.

They have fined violators for committing social order violations only.

An official of the natural resources and environment office of Binh Thanh District said the district wants to seize loudspeaker systems of restaurants and shops repeating their violations but this will go against prevailing regulations.

Most violators stopped their noisy activities after being warned but continued them later. Therefore, Binh Thanh District urged the city to propose relevant regulations.

In particular, violators should have their equipment confiscated. Small fines do not make sense, the official noted. 

He added that some shops and restaurants toned down the volume or even turned off devices during inspections.

Therefore, the district proposed the city send staff out on reconnaissance to catch violators in the act.

Fines for violating noise regulations of production and business units, especially those repeating their breaches, should increase.

According to lawyer Nguyen Quoc Cuong from the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, noise undermines public health and the quality of life of residents.

The implementation of Government Decree 45/2022 faced obstacles due to the shortage of noise measuring devices.

Noise measuring apps are proposed to be launched to better handle noise violations. Photo: Le Phan / Tuoi Tre

Noise measuring apps are proposed to be launched to better handle noise violations. Photo: Le Phan / Tuoi Tre

In addition, the measurement must be carried out by certain agencies, not to mention difficulties in gauging noise levels when the noise is in public. 

Therefore, it is a must to amend and supplement regulations in a manner that allows the use of mobile apps or portable measuring devices in the measurement of noise levels.

In addition, chairs of localities must bear responsibility for educating local residents and organizations, enhancing inspections, and drastically addressing noise violations to ensure social order and improve quality of life.

Lawyer Vo Dan Mach from the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association stressed that individuals causing noise can be fined VND2-160 million ($86-6,895). 

Moreover, production and business units may be suspended from operating for three to six months or six to 12 months if they make noise that surpasses caps by 10 to less than 30 dBA or between 30 and less than 40 dBA, respectively.

They may be asked to take restorative measures as well.

Despite these sanctions, noise pollution remains in place, especially in production and business establishments, due to their owners’ poor awareness and state agencies’ failure to detect and handle violations.

Lawyer Mach said the current sanctions are light, so production and business establishments are willing to pay fines.

Furthermore, the regulations of suspending their operation will be applied only if the noise exceeds the allowable level by 10 dBA.

Therefore, Mach proposed increasing fines for production and business establishments violating noise regulations, especially those repeating their violations.

Additionally, their noisy activities should be suspended for one to three months if the noise level exceeds the limit by two to less than 10 dBA.

If the violation is repeated, the production and business establishments should be suspended for six to 12 months.

In addition to sanctions in Government Decree 45/2022, localities proposed seizing equipment generating noise to effectively deal with noise pollution.

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Thanh Ha / Tuoi Tre News

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