Waste management hit a crisis point in 2011 in Ha Tinh, the north-central coastal capital of one of Viet Nam’s poorest provinces. Due to heavy protests from neighbouring communities, Ha Tinh’s landfill dumpsite had to be closed. A new location has not been easy to find.
Meanwhile, the city is forced to transport to a landfill 20 km away, which is expensive; but worse, the site doesn’t have the capacity to receive all of Ha Tinh’s waste.
To limit the amount of waste that needs to be deposited in the landfill, the city authorities have encouraged households to treat their own waste, which has resulted in waste burning, burying or dumping into local rivers, thus causing pollution and environmental degradation. Citenco, the state-owned environmental and sanitation company, collects waste that is dumped in communal areas on occasion, but this solution is neither sufficient nor permanent.
Although faced with little choice, the city leadership committed to finding a suitable long-term solution. In an attempt to reduce waste at the landfill, the city purchased equipment for a composting plant with a capacity of 120 tons per day through a loan from the Belgian Government. But the technology has proven difficult to put in use, and land has not yet been allocated for the plant.
In its regional project, Pro-Poor and Sustainable Solid Waste Management in Secondary Cities and Small Towns., ESCAP in Viet Nam has partnered with the Environment and Development Action (ENDA), the Association of Cities of Viet Nam and with Waste Concern to work with three local governments to develop integrated resource recovery centres (IRRCs). The project is geared towards improving solid waste collection, helping each city save money and providing equitable and healthier employment for people scavenging in the informal waste sector.
The first IRRC site for the city of Ha Tinh is in Thach Ha commune. Since the closure of the city’s landfill, there has been no waste collection in Thach Ha. Before the closure of the landfill, waste in the commune was collected by 24 female workers who were farmers who needed additional income and received a small collection fee from each household for collecting waste twice a week. Once the women collected the waste, they took it to points where Citenco then collected it for transport to the landfill.
The IRRC will build on that previous system and employ some of the women waste collectors. It will formalize the management of the IRRC through the creation of an environmental cooperative, with the previous waste pickers as members. The collection and transport of waste from the commune will be handled by the cooperative workers, while Citenco will transport the organic waste from the central market to the IRRC. Citenco will also regularly collect rejected material from the IRRC and take it to the landfill.
Although the IRRC will initially only treat waste from the market and the Thach Ha commune, the plan is to expand its activities later to treat waste from adjacent communes.
The People’s Committees at the city and commune levels are committed to the project and to ensuring its success. To ensure that only separated waste is transported to the IRRC, the People’s Committee of Ha Tinh will work with the central market’s management board and the vendors as well as households in Thach Ha commune. Other important parties, such as the Women’s Union, have been included in the project planning process and will have a critical role in promoting source separation in the commune.
In both the urban and rural areas, residents recognize that organic fertilizer is beneficial to the land and the crops and agree that composting and source separation are important ways of dealing with waste.