Residents in Vientiane Capital have complained that garbage burning remains a problem, despite hopes a hotline for complaints would put a stop to the issue.
The Vientiane Capital Department of Natural Resource and Environment established a hotline, 1523, in September last year, allowing residents to report the illegal burning of garbage, rice fields, and scrubland around the city.
The hotline is available from Monday to Friday from 09:00 – 16:00 and receives reports on all illicit burning in the capital.
Those who report fires are required to report the location, date, and time of the fire, and try to take photos or video as evidence of the incident, according to Vientiane Capital authorities.
But residents say the hotline hasn’t helped, with lengthy delays and some calls unanswered.
A resident in Nongphaya Village, Xaythani District, Vientiane Capital told Laotian Times that he called the hotline hoping to report illegal garbage burning in his village.
“I called the hotline twice but nobody answered. I’m not sure what to do if I can’t report the garbage fire,” he said.
A resident living along 450 Years Road in Xaysettha District, Vientiane Capital, says that she called to report the illegal burning of garbage via the hotline on Monday, during official hours, but her call did not receive a response either.
Another concerned resident in Xaythany District, Vientiane Capital says she called to report the illegal burning of rice fields.
“When I called the hotline I received a response. They told me to report the problem to the head of my village (Nai Ban). I did so but people continue to burn garbage and burn their rice fields,” she said.
Despite the frequency of incidents, some believe that attitudes are changing and that the future may see a less smoky horizon.
Ms. Souksaveuy Keotiamchanh, Associate for Solid Waste Management with GGGI’s Lao PDR program, and founder of Zero Waste Laos, says attitudes are changing.
“There is definitely a lot more interest in this issue from younger people. They try to talk to their parents and ask them not to burn. They don’t like the bad air quality that we have seen in recent years and hope to see the situation change in the future.”
She believes greater public education about the health and environmental impact of burning waste is key to controlling the problem and improving enforcement.
Illegal dumping and waste burning present a challenge to municipal solid waste management in Vientiane Capital, according to authorities.
Household waste management in the nation’s capital stands at only 27 percent, while the remaining 73 percent of households in the capital do not use municipal waste collection services.
Head of the Vientiane City Office for Management and Services (VCOMS), Mr. Bounchanh Keosithamma, spoke at a stakeholder consultation workshop in Vientiane last year, saying that the majority of citizens openly engage in illegal dumping and burning of garbage to avoid paying fees.
A notice issued by the Mayor of Vientiane Capital in December 2019 officially banned the burning of garbage.