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Urbanization brings people next door to garbage stations in Vietnam city

Workers at a garbage transfer station in Ho Chi Minh City load rubbish into a dump truck. Photo by Dinh Muoi

People clutch their noses as they pass a waste transfer station in Ho Chi Minh City, where the rubbish is dumped on the ground instead of in containers, leaving a permanent stink lingering there.

A worker said the site is sprayed three times a day but it does not seem to help.

The site, in Tan Hoa Street, District 11, is the city's biggest transfer point for household waste, receiving around 400 tons a day.

Unplanned urbanization is pushing people closer and closer to 47 transfer stations, city authorities admitted.

They said 70 percent of the stations are not of ideal size or in ideal locations, and cause people to suffer.

The city generates more than 8,000 tons of waste a day, not to mention toilet waste, and more than 2.2 million cubic meters of household and industrial sewage, according to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

One transfer station is a small piece of land near Kha Van Can Street in Thu Duc District, which forces any vehicles drivers to drive with one hand and use the other to hold their noses.

Hoang, the driver of a garbage truck, said the site gathers household waste from the entire district and dump trucks come at the end of the day to take the rubbish to landfills or sites in outlying Binh Chanh, Hoc Mon, and Cu Chid Districts.

He said the site is very close to the road and homes, and causes severe pollution since the waste has to wait for a whole day to be taken away.

September 23rd Park, a green lung at the heart of the city, lies along another station on Le Lai Street, where dump trucks come to take away the waste every afternoon.

There are several more such sites around the foreigners' area in the city center.

The entire Hoa Binh Park in District 5 has been turned into a transfer station.

Dung, who lives nearby, said it is supposed to be a place for relaxing and exercising, but the garbage trucks keep people away.

There is one station in District 8, not far from the district and Ward 5 people's committee offices.

"We have been complaining a lot but it has still not been moved," a local named Van said. "We have planted trees around the station to reduce the smell."

Nguyen Huy lives next door to a sidewalk station in the district. Often, unable to bear the stink, he secretly pushes away the rubbish vehicles, he said.

Local officials said moving the transfer stations is not an option since the city is densely populated.

Nguyen Thi Cam Hong, chairman of Ward 5 in District 8, said the district has five stations and only one was moved recently to a less populated area.

Le Thi Hieu Thao, a ward chairwoman in District 5, said she can only get the garbage trucks to finish their work by 6 a.m. every day.

Le Trung Tuan Anh, a waste management official at the city Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said the stations used to be situated far from people's houses, but urbanization has put them bang in their middle now.

He said the city plans to spend VND270 billion (US$12.78 million) to improve nine stations to make them cleaner.

Figures from the Ministry of Construction show that garbage is a national problem.

It said only 26.5 percent of solid waste landfills of more than one hectare meet hygiene standards.

The country generated 61,500 tons of solid waste a day as of April 2012, half in urban areas, according to the ministry.

Most of the solid waste in cities is collected and treated, while the figure is only 20-30 percent for rural areas.

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