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Archive for October 18th, 2008|Daily archive page

Indoor air pollution a serious health threat across Viet Nam

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2008 at 12:57 pm

HA NOI — “Most people can’t imagine what it’s like to live in a smoky hut,” said Eva Rehfuess, of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Partnership for Clean Indoor Air, “it’s ten times worse than the most polluted cities.”

Rehfuess said that even the WHO was surprised by the magnitude of the problem. First addressed in the 2002 World Health Report, indoor air pollution was ranked, after water and sanitation, as one of the biggest environmental health risks in the developing world.

According to the WHO, health problems caused by indoor air pollution kill 2 million children each year.

At home

Solutions suggested

– Do not smoke or burn coal inside the house
– Ensure sufficient air circulation (this will help reduce humidity and reduce the effects of harmful household chemicals)
– Avoid excessive humidity, not more than 50 per cent RH (relative humidity) in summer and 30 per cent in winter
– Repair and dry out water damage caused by leaks and flooding and immediately clean mould
– Use water-based paint instead of oil-based paint
– Clean air filters frequently
– Keep plants inside the house to reduce pollution and provide oxygen
– Restrict the use of carpets, which collect dust and allergens.

The most harmful and widespread contaminant of indoor air is tobacco smoke, followed by coal smoke. Many Vietnamese families save energy and money by burning different kinds of household coal, which is extremely harmful to lungs. Other sources of indoor air pollution include improperly maintained or vented combustion devices, such as gas or propane cooking stoves, furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces.

Mold, dust mites and fumes from domestic chemicals can also cause a number of health problems.

“Mold growing in your home can release mold spores, toxins and bad odours,” says Do Hoang Oanh of the HCM City Department of Natural Resources and Environment, “harmful chemicals can be released from synthetic fabrics, furnishings and household products.”

At the office

Nguyen Thanh Huong, an office worker, complained that she sometimes gets headaches, irritated eyes and has trouble concentrating at work. She would never attribute these symptoms to the electric lighting in the office, but according to the HCM City Department of Natural Resources and Environment, strong light can make people tired and increase anxiety.

Air-conditioners, which run all day but are seldom cleaned, are also a significant source of air pollution.

“Air-conditioners should be cleaned often,” Oanh suggests. “Periodically, they should be turned off for cleaning and filtering dust and windows should be opened to let in fresh air.”

When people are exposed to pollutants over a long period of time they may begin to experience allergies, tiredness and serious diseases like lung cancer, asthma and dermatitis, Oanh warns. —

Red River bio-reserve receives UNESCO title

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2008 at 12:56 pm

HA NOI — The Song Hong (Red) River Delta Biosphere Reserve, has received official UNESCO recognition at a ceremony in the Xuan Thuy Ramsar Site, Nam Dinh Province.

The event on Monday also revealed the new management board of the protected area.

The reserve is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia to be jointly run by three provinces, said director of Ramsar Site Nguyen Viet Cach. These provinces are Nam Dinh, Ninh Binh and Thai Binh.

“UNESCO recognition will create a new environment for sustainable development in the area,” said Nguyen Thu Hue, Director of Marinelife Conservation and Community, and technical advisor to the park.

The protected area is home to one of the largest remaining tracts of mangrove forest in Viet Nam, with some 30 species of mangrove and many endangered species of flora and fauna. The Xuan Thuy Ramsar Site was one of the first in Southeast Asia to receive recognition by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 2001.

The Red River site includes two main nature reserves: one each in Giao Thuy and Tien Hai districts. Each reserve is surrounded by a set of buffer zones and transition areas. Over 128,000 people live in the biosphere park, mainly in the outlying areas.

The 12,500ha Tien Hai reserve is particularly important for birdlife. The area hosts 150 different waterbird species. Some of these are listed as rare in Viet Nam’s Red Book, including the spot-billed pelican and the black-faced spoonbill.

The nature reserve is also home to more than 100 aquatic animal species including around 80 fish and 20 crustacean species.

However, the coastal wetland ecosystem is facing destruction. Along with over-fishing and mangrove deforestation, pollution is destroying the mangrove forests and reducing marine stocks.

An annual meeting on management experience exchanging among national heritage and biosphere reserves was also held at the Xuan Thuy Ramsar Site. —

Pollution levels ring alarm bells

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Nghe An’s Anh Son Cement Factory emits dangerous smoke into the air. Serious polluters will face strict punishment for violations.— VNA/VNS Photo Ngoc Ha

HA NOI — Currently 4,000 factories in the country are causing serious environmental pollution, Nghiem Vu Khai, Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly Committee for Science, Technology and Environment has announced.

The findings were announced on Tuesday after the committee’s recent investigation of environmental protection in 20 provinces and cities.

Khai said the findings were even more damaging than expected, with an alarming volume of domestic and industrial waste being dumped into the environment.

He said the department planned to apply the highest punishments available under the Environment Protection Law to these polluters, which included both enterprises and hospitals.

If the culprits are found credit-worthy, however, they will be allowed to borrow money from the Environment Protection Fund to improve their waste treatment systems and try to fix the effects of their pollution, said Truong Manh Tien, the director of the fund.

Enterprises along the Cau, Nhue, Day, Dong Nai and Han rivers will take priority, said Tien.

The committee suggested that the Government publish specific guiding documents, from which the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, provinces and relevant sectors can use as reference to punish environmental offenders in industrial and urban areas.

Incidents where environment violations are so severe they fall under Criminal Law will be raised to higher levels, said Khai.

Khai stressed that it was necessary for local authorities to manage environment protection in their localities, improve the efficiency of environment protection activities, build environment observation and analysis stations and allocate capital for these activities. —

Capital to crackdown on violators

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2008 at 12:55 pm

HA NOI — Ha Noi authorities have started a campaign to crack-down on the environmental violations in 68 establishments in the capital city this Monday.

In the 24-day effort, inspectors form the Ha Noi Natural Resources and Environment Department, officials from the Environment Protection Department and environment police will check local hospitals, hotels, restaurants and factories.

Earlier this month, another delegation from the Ha Noi Department of Natural Resources and Environment checked waste treatment in 14 units in the districts of Tay Ho, Hoan Kiem and Ba Dinh, which exploit water resources for their use and release waste water in the city.

The delegation found the majority of the units, mostly hotels and hospitals, did not pay attention to environmental protection and violated environmental laws, polluting the surrounding environment with their waste.

According to Tran Trong Binh, chief of the environment police office, they recently caught Van Dao Company in Ha Dong City red-handed, releasing mud and oil sludge into the local Day River.

The police said that though the company had released their waste on a small scale, it was seriously toxic as the river is one of the main rivers in the Red River Delta.

The delegation will keep checking other suspected violators in the city until the end of next month.

Last month, officials found a floating restaurant and a beer producing factory illegally releasing untreated waste and waste water into West and Truc Bach lakes. —

Call to close polluting tannery

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2008 at 12:54 pm

HCM CITY — The HCM City Export Processing and Industrial Zones Authority (HEPZA) has proposed that the municipal People’s Committee close down the Hao Duong joint-stock tanning company for violating environmental regulations.

The company, located in the Hiep Phuoc Industrial Zone in Long Thoi Commune, was discovered pumping untreated waste water into the nearby Dong Dien River regardless of warnings from local authorities, said the deputy head of HEPZA, Ngo Anh Tuan.

According to environmental police, the Hao Duong company was discharging 2,500 cubic metres of untreated waste water into the river each day.

The company was also found to be breaking regulations on investment, construction and labour, Tuan said.

The deputy director of the Hiep Phuoc industrial zone joint-stock company (HIPC), Tran Anh Tich Lan, said he had asked local authorities to investigate the presence of 98 foreign workers by Hao Duong company since May.

He claimed that the company let these labourers work and stay at its workshops without applying for labour and residence approval from HEPZA.

A list of foreign “experts” signed by company deputy director Pham Van Vui on July 15 included 78 workers whose visa had expired, according to Lan.

A mission has been set up by HEPZA to investigate the alleged violations and report to the municipal People’s Committee.

Hao Duong company began operations in 2003. In early 2005, the company was fined VND10 million (US$590) by the city’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment for violating regulations on sewage discharge.

Later that year, it was fined again for pumping waste water into the river and was told to upgrade its waste-water treatment system.

On October 10, the company was caught red-handed pumping untreated waste water into the Dong Dien River through a hidden sewage system. —

Lives on the line as residents wait for sea dyke

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2008 at 12:53 pm

A sea embankment being built in Da Nang City, is aimed to protect local residents from floodings in the rainy season. — VNS Photo Xuan Quang.

DA NANG — Stalled plans to build a sea embankment in Lien Chieu District of Da Nang City has left thousands of families living in fear of floods.

The project, launched by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2007, aimed to build a 1,600m-long sea embankment from Nguyen Tat Thanh Street to Nam O Bridge in Lien Chieu District.

The first phase of the project, a 600-metre-long dike which would protect around 300 families in the area during storm season, was planned for completion in August this year. But one month after the deadline only 10m has been worked on, said Le Van Te, chairman of Hoa Hiep Bac Ward in the district.

“About 100 families and tens of shrimp farms are facing the threat of being swept away,” said Te.

When the tide was high, local people had to use rocks and sand bags to protect their houses, said Nguyen Tuan Hoang, a resident of Hoa Hiep Nam Ward. “We can’t do it forever,” he added.

In 2006, the houses of around 10 families on Xuan Duong Street in collapsed under sea water. In 2007, four houses in the district were swept away.

The rising price of construction materials was partly to blame for the hold-up, said Le Duy Vong, head of the irrigation branch of Da Nang City’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Department.

Costs calculated in the original plan had to be readjusted. “The dyke will be completed by April 2009,” he said. —

Health ministry sets tough new standards for driving

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2008 at 12:52 pm

HA NOI — The Ministry of Health (MoH) has released a new set of health standards setting rules for vehicle users nationwide.

The Decree 33/2008 says that those who are under 1.45m tall and weighing under 40kg will no longer be allowed to drive motorbikes, and car drivers must now be at least 1.5m.

It also sets new standards for professional drivers, saying they must be at least 1.62m tall to get a driving licence.

Tran Son, representative of the Ministry of Public Security, said that drivers not meeting the new standards would have their licences revoked, to ensure the safety of road users.

All drivers would be weighed and measured when their licences expire in order to get a new one, he said.

Tran Quy Tuong, vice director of the MoH Treatment Department, said the new criteria were based on the development of a healthy society. “The regulation is suitable for Vietnamese people and meets international regulations,” said Tuong.

Le Danh Tuyen, vice director of the National Nutrition Institute said that the average height of Vietnamese has been increasing in recent years. Statistics from 2000 showed that Vietnamese men are now an average 1.62m tall and weighed 52kg. Women now reach an average 1.53m tall and 46kg.

“Based on the average, people who don’t meet the height and weight requirements are considered not healthy enough to control vehicles, which is a danger for both drivers and pedestrians,” said Ly Ngoc Kinh, director of the MoH Treatment Department.

Dang Tran Mui, vice director of the Centre for Science Research and Training under the Ha Noi Department of Transport, said that people should look at other forms of transport if they do not meet the new standards.

A new health certificate is required to get a driving licence that stipulates height and weight checks.

However, enforcement may be difficult, as police are not equipped with measuring tapes and scales.

“I don’t think this is a proper regulation. People whose bodies are rather small don’t always drive carelessly. I wonder how police will know who is under 40kg to fine them,” said Nguyen Van Minh, resident of Linh Dam urban area in Hoang Mai District of Ha Noi.

Nguyen Hong Ha, manager of a transport project to help the disabled said that the adjustment does not take into account amputees and other disabilities. She also said that vehicles can be modified for the disabled to drive them, which does not necessarily make short people dangerous drivers. The MoH seems to have arbitrarily made the decision, she said.

Vo Van Van, deputy director of HCM City’s road traffic police bureau, said no statistics were available on road accidents caused by short people, making it difficult to assess the impact of the new regulations. —

More deadly milk uncovered

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2008 at 12:52 pm

HCM CITY — The HCM City Health Department has found one more milk brand with products containing melamine, a toxin that is banned in the food industry, bringing the total so far to 24.

Nguyen Thi Khanh Tram, deputy head of the Food Hygiene and Safety Department under the Ministry of Heath (MoH), said on Wednesday that the tainted product was Gold Nutritional Master, made by CMB Food Industrial Ltd Co in HCM City’s Tan Phu District.

Meanwhile, three imported products tested positive for melamine contamination, the Huong Thuy Commerce and Service Co informed the city health department after getting results from the Centre of Standards, Measurement and Quality No3.

The products are Pokka Melon Milk, Pokka Cappuccino Coffee and Milk Coffee Europe. The company said it had distributed about 1,000 cans of these products imported from Singapore.

The department has asked relevant agencies to quickly recall Huong Thuy Co.’s products from their shelves.

The MoH said it would tighten its management of the milk market from central to local levels. Accordingly, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will oversee the quality of domestic milk sources and animal feed.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will be responsible for destroying melamine contaminated products, while the Ministry of Industry and Trade will supervise businesses importing milk and milk based products. —

Lam Dong Province to plant new trees for old

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2008 at 12:50 pm

LAM DONG — The Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) province of Lam Dong is planning to cut tens of thousands of hectares of natural pine forests throughout the province and replace them with high-value cash crops, according to the deputy director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Le Van Minh.

The project, part of a provincial afforestation plan to 2020, calls for 1,400ha of pine to be cut per year and immediately replaced with cash crops including bead-tree and bamboo. The plan is expected to supply 500,000cu.m of timber a year by 2020.

“We have decided to replace natural pine forests with others because the pine is old and stunted. Cutting the trees and planting new ones will help local people improve their living standards,” said Minh.

“We have carefully carried out relevant studies before developing the project. We will publicise the details after submitting it to the Government.”

Minh said the project was designed with high feasibility.

In the dark

However, many local people do not know about it, including Deputy Chairman and General Secretary of Lam Dong Science and Technology Association Nguy Xung Hung.

Hung said his organisa-tion did not hear about the project until it was released in the mass media. “It’s a pity that if the project is approved, we, the relevant sectors, did not have a chance to contribute our ideas.”

Painter Pham Mui, a member of the Viet Nam Art Association, said he did not have enough economic information to assess the project, but he had doubts about its feasibility.

“Da Lat built a golf course in a spot that used to be the most beautiful place in the city. But the golf course has lost money in the last 16 years, and people continue to build many golf courses in the province. I don’t know why, for what?” asked Mui.

“From the view of a painter, I feel anguish. I hope the Government will consider this project carefully before making a decision.”

Deputy head of the Department of Forestry under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Develoment Nguyen Quang Duong said his department had received the proposal from Lam Dong Province. However, he did not know much about it.

“In my opinion, if the 60-70 year old pine forest’s exploitation value is low, it’s necessary to cut it down and plant new ones. I support the province’s plan. However, we need to define the age of every forested area to avoid mistakes,” said Duong.

Head of Lam Dong Department of Forest Cat Quoc Khanh said he agreed with the project because afforestation helps create jobs and improve living standards for local people, especially ethnic minority people living in the forest.

“It’s feasible, but it needs a clear plan,” said Khanh.

Khanh said the project does not include protected forests and forests with special uses, like tourism areas and areas near lakes and streams. The project would only be carried out in forested areas marked for the purpose of production and trade.

“We’ll cut it down and then plant new ones immediately. It’s necessary to have a systematic plan including good seedlings and a closed system from investment to processing,” said Khanh.

Minh and Khanh stress that the project is very feasible and will help improve the local economy. —

VIIF 2008 offers cooperation opportunities to businesses

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Hanoi (VNA) – The Vietnam International Industrial Fair 2008 (VIIF 2008) offers a chance for Vietnamese and foreign businesses to seek partners and boost cooperation.

A representative from the Indian Embassy in Vietnam told a Vietnam News Agency reporter at the VIIF 2008 opening ceremony on October 17 that India always considers the participation in the event as an important part of its annual bilateral trade promotion programme with Vietnam .

This year’s fair is drawing the participation of 150 Indian enterprises operating in agriculture and farm product processing, electricity, information technology and auto parts, he said.

Indian businesses usually received some 300 orders from Vietnamese partners during the course of such a fair, he added.

He also said that the two-way trade turnover between the two countries rose to 800 million USD in 2006 from 195 million USD in 1999. The figure reached 1.6 billion USD in the first nine month of this year and is expected to exceed 2 billion USD by 2010.

India has become one of the ten largest investors in Vietnam . Besides Essar and Tata steel companies, many other Indian businesses are seeking business opportunities in mineral exploitation and processing, fertiliser production and garment in Vietnam .

Su Jin Ha, Director of the Republic of Korea ’s Dong Yang Metal Co., Ltd, expressed her belief that with Vietnam ’s open economy and large shipbuilding potential, her company will find many partners through this fair.

Domestic enterprises also described the fair as an important bridge between them and foreign partners.

According to Nguyen Manh Hung, a representative from the Thang Long Metallurgy Co, Ltd, – Vietnam’s leading household utensil producer, the fair has remarkably contributed to its annual export turnover growth of 30 percent. At this year’s fair, the company will focus on seeking new foreign partners in addition to Asian and European ones, he said.

Deputy Minister of the Culture, Sports and Tourism Huynh Vinh Ai said in the context that Vietnam continues to be considered as a potential and stable market for foreign investors despite the increasing global economic crisis, VIIF 2008 will help promote investment, economic-technical cooperation and trade between domestic and foreign enterprises.

VIIF 2008, which will last until October 21, is attracting over 400 Vietnamese and foreign businesses.-