Provinces in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta are seemingly trapped against a rock and a hard place, with waste piling up across the region and waste treatment plants unable to remedy the situation as they sit idle due to sanctions for causing pollution themselves.
In An Giang Province, two 35-meter-high mountains of rubbish tower over a landfill site at the Long Xuyen solid waste treatment cluster operated by An Giang Urban Environment JSC.
Landfill No. 1, which covers 17,800 square meters in the province’s Chau Thanh District, was designated as the burial site for garbage collected in Long Xuyen City, Chau Thanh District, and Chau Phu District.
In November 2021, the landfill became overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of metric tons of waste, forcing the company to build a second dumpsite at the end of that year. By the end of the following year, the landfill once again became overloaded.
Currently, 170,000 metric tons of garbage remains unburied at the landfill.
The company initially built the second landfill as a temporary solution to cope with the overload and planned to call on investors to pour investment in the facility.
“We haven’t been able to find any investors,” said Le Thanh Tien Danh, a worker at the Long Xuyen solid waste treatment cluster.
In Tien Giang Province, which currently boasts eight active landfills, dumpsites at Tan Lap in Tan Phuoc District and Long Chanh in Go Cong Town are now overwhelmed by millions of metric tons of unburied waste.
The 15-hectare Tan Lap 1 landfill in Tan Phuoc is capable of handling 180 metric tons of waste per day, far short of the 500 metric tons of garbage that is dumped there daily.
In Vinh Long, the province’s sole landfill, located in Long Ho District, receives more than 350 metric tons of garbage each day.
The awful odor from the overloaded facility has affected 450 local households living along nearby National Highway 1.
Just off the coast of Kieng Giang Province, Kien Hai District and Phu Quoc City, two island localities, also struggle with waste management.
Huynh Quang Hung, chairman of the Phu Quoc administration, said the island discharges 200 metric tons of waste each day, much of which ends up at the Dong Cay Sao landfill in Cua Duong Commune for treatment.
|A mountain of garbage nearly 35 meters high in An Giang Province, southern Vietnam. Photo: Buu Dau / Tuoi Tre
Unburied waste at the landfill has begun to pile up while the island city searches for ways to handle large amounts of waste, causing public outrage, Hung said.
To cope with the issue, many localities have called on investors to build waste treatment plants, though their efforts have seen little success.
In 2018, Ben Tre Province clinched a VND200 billion (US$8.5 million) investment into a four-hectare waste treatment plant.
The plant later failed to meet waste treatment standards, leaving 100,000 metric tons of waste unburied and causing environmental pollution.
Consequently, the People’s Committee of Ben Tre slapped a fine of VND510 million ($21,790) on the plant and forced it to suspend operations and tackle the unburied waste.
In neighboring Tien Giang Province, the provincial administration gave the green light to a waste-to-energy plant project in Go Cong Town capable of treating 200 metric tons of waste per day, but the project ground to a halt due to its failure to meet some requirements related to its size, the distance between the plant and the nearby residential area, and land use issues.
Vinh Long Province had a waste treatment plant meeting European standards that was able to treat 200-300 metric tons of waste per day.
The plant, however, shut down after just half a year in operation.
In September 2016, the plant resumed operations and was converted into a waste-to-energy facility.
It closed once again over financial woes.
Lu Quang Ngoi, chairman of the Vinh Long administration, said a new investor has been secured to continue the plant’s operations from the second quarter of this year.