HCM CITY — Roughly 40 tonnes of trash and 70,000 cubic metres of sewage are being dumped into HCM City’s rivers and canals daily, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment estimates.
Despite the city designating 2012 as the year to promote civilized urban lifestyles, residents’ low awareness levels mean environmental pollution and littering continue.
Do Ngoc Nga, a resident who lives near Nhieu Loc Canal in Binh Thanh District, complained that dumping trash into canals and irrigation systems is an alarming habit of neighbours.
“Everyone thinks it’s ok to simply throw their trash directly into the canals and rivers,” she said.
Deputy Director of the city’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment Nguyen Van Phuoc said many households living in alleys even sneak out to dump trash on the streets, while occupied pavements also make it difficult for cleaning workers.
“Many of the street vendors do not have trash cans so when the cleaning workers finish their shifts, everything looks just as dirty the following day,” Phuoc said.
The littering also comes in the form of advertising brochures and pamphlets scattered across the streets, while the problem is compounded because efforts to highlight the importance of clean living are often ineffective.
The city’s People’s Committee has implemented some measures, such as reducing the number of impromptu trash dumping spots, punishing those who litter or dump waste water in rivers and canals (fines range from VND50,000-100,000) and increasing inspections.
However, the department admits it’s difficult to enforce these measures as it does not have enough staff and most residents don’t understand the benefits of keeping clean living environments.
The head of the Customer Services Department under Sai Gon Water Supply Company, Le Huu Quang, said the city did not have a specialised agency for monitoring those who litter publicly.
Nguyen Thi Thuy Linh, from the community relations programme at the Steering Centre of the Urban Flood Control Programme, said awareness was absolutely crucial to solving the problem.
“We need clear targets on improving communities’ awareness on littering and other activities that pollute the environment,” she said. “We should also use various media channels and integrate the advice into teaching programmes.”
Luu Thi Trinh of Binh Thanh District said one strategy could be teaching residents how to divide trash for recycling purpose and calling on young people to take part in cleaning-up programmes.
Others call for harsher punishments for those who litter publicly. — VNS