Each and every morning, the loudspeakers in Vientiane’s Sangveuy Village, of Sisattanak District, can be heard sending out a special message from the Village Chief, Mr Oudomxay Sisomphone. His message is clear and concise: stop burning garbage, and stop littering. A breath of fresh air to some, and a stern warning to others.
Mr Oudomxay, who gave an interview to the Lao Post, says he decided to take real action against the problem of garbage fires in order to clean up the air in his local area, and encourage villagers to take care of their health. And he says the law is on his side.
Regulations against the practice have been issued, including Instruction by the Mayor of Vientiane, No. 002/MV, and several notices issued by the Head of Sisattanak District, as well as the official village regulations. According to these regulations, the burning of household waste is prohibited across Vientiane Capital. But many villages are unwilling or unable to deal with the problem.
“I like to keep my village clean. And the village authorities in my village take air pollution very seriously,” says Mr Oudomxay.
“This problem is only getting worse. Fumes from garbage fires are one factor contributing to pollution, and are a nuisance for people nearby who may experience difficulty breathing. This is also a major fire risk.”
Sangveuy village holds regular clean-up sessions on Saturday mornings, when residents gather together to pick up garbage and clean the village. Areas of dense scrub are also cleared to make the village more attractive.
“We’ve had many foreign residents coming to our office to lodge complaints because these fires are harmful to their health, especially to children. I want all residents of Sangveuy, whether foreign or local, to live in a healthy and sanitary environment,” said Mr Oudomxay.
Mr. Oudomxay says his village has also commenced an inspection and education program for offenses related to littering or burning waste. He has put measures in place to punish those found guilty, including monetary fines, and regularly checks for villagers flouting the rules.
He encourages all residents of Vientiane to take a stand against air pollution, and report incidents to local authorities.
Written with assistance from Cameron Darke.