Locals in Ben Tre Province have taken turns stopping a landfill near their houses from taking in more garbage to protest pollution caused by the dumping ground.
For over a week, more than 100 families in two communes of An Hiep and An Duc in Ba Tri District have set up a checkpoint in front of the landfill, which spreads 5 ha in An Hiep Commune.
They hold signs, saying: “Stopping garbage trucks at all costs” and “Protecting people’s health is the top priority.”
“Those who are tired and busy can go home and someone else will come to take turns. We also have people staying at the checkpoint overnight,” said Tran Van Phu, 41, from An Duc Commune.
Locals gather at a checkpoint to prevent garbage trucks from entering a landfill in An Hiep Commune in Ben Tre Province, July 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam
The landfill was formed more than 10 years ago and since then has received 30-40 tons of waste per day.
However, since a waste treatment plant operated by Ben Tre Waste Treatment JSC in Chau Thanh District was shut down in last October, An Hiep landfill has had to take in all the waste discarded in Chau Thanh and Ben Tre Town.
The plant was suspended after the company failed to complete the system to collect and treat wastewater, emissions as well as ash and slag, causing pollution in the surrounding area.
At first, it was decided that the plant would be shut down for 7.5 months but until now, it has yet to be reopened to process garbage.
As a result, the landfill in An Hiep Commune now must receive 120-150 tons of garbage per day.
An Hiep landfill has been overloaded. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam
The high amount of waste in combination with the incomplete facility at the landfill has resulted in odor and polluted water leaking from the dumping ground, affecting households living nearby.
The pollution has recently got worse as it is the rainy season.
Residents have reported more flies gathering in their neighborhood and more wastewater leaking from the landfill into public waterways, causing farmers to ditch their shrimp farms and prevent their cattle from drinking water in canals and rivers.
They have urged local authorities to handle the situation but until now the problem has not been solved, so they are protesting.
A woman in An Hiep Commune shows flies caught with glue sheets due to pollution from the landfill, July 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam
Nguyen Minh Canh, deputy chairman of Ben Tre, said the province has declared a state of pollution emergency at An Hiep landfill, which is now the only operative dumping ground in the province, home to more than 1.6 million.
For an immediate solution, the province has ordered related agencies to cover areas full of garbage with canvas sheets to limit water leaks and odor.
The province will then expand the landfill by 3 ha to give more space for taking in the trash.
In the long term, the waste treatment plant in Chau Thanh District will have its capacity raised to 320-350 tons per day by 2025, said Canh.
Spreading around four hectares, the plant cost VND200 billion ($8.4 million) and started operation in mid-2018 after more than two years of construction.
As designed, it could take in 200 tons of garbage per day for incineration but by the time it was suspended, it could only operate at 40% of its designed capacity, leaving almost 100,000 tons of waste remaining unprocessed at the factory.
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