SOCIETY IN BRIEF 15/3

ASEM workshop to discuss water management

The Mekong Delta city of Can Tho will host an Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) workshop on water and river basin management from March 20-23.

The workshop, the first of its kind in Vietnam, is expected to attract 150 delegates from 51 ASEM member countries and relevant organisations such as the Mekong River Commission, the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, the World Water Council, the United Nations, the UN Environment Programme, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank.

Delegates will examine reports and make recommendations to the 11th ASEM Ministerial Meeting to be held in New Delhi this November.

The workshop is the first activity of the Danube-Mekong Cooperation Initiative between Vietnam and all five members of the initiative: Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Laos and Thailand, which was approved at the 9th ASEM Summit in Laos in 2012.  

The initiative has received strong support from ASEM member countries as it links water management with the role of river basins and green growth.  

Can Tho City will also host World Water Day celebrations on March 20-21.

Hand-foot-mouth disease spreads

With the hand-foot-mouth disease season just beginning, 60 out the country's 64 provinces and cities have already experienced outbreaks, the Department of Preventive Health has said.

Around 1,000 cases have been reported every week since the beginning of this year.

In the last two weeks 28 provinces and cities said the incidence of HFM was increasing.

Places like Da Nang and the provinces of Khanh Hoa, Yen Bai, Tuyen Quang, Soc Trang, and Quang Ngai have been the worst affected, with the number of patients increasing by 22-700 per cent.

Soc Trang Province in the Mekong Delta has seen nearly 400 cases this year, according to its Department of Health.

Vinh Long, another delta province, has also been hit hard, with its Preventive Health Centre reporting more than 660 cases, 300 more than in the same period last year.

Most of the cases have been reported from the districts of Vung Liem, Long Ho, and Tam Binh.
But in HCM City, things had gotten better, the Preventive Health Centre said.

Between February 27 and March 5 only 78 children were hospitalised, half the number as in the comparable period last year.

Nguyen Van Binh, head of the Department of Preventive Health, said the disease also continued to plague other countries in the region like Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Cambodia.

The increasing incidence in Viet Nam has him worried about the effectiveness of information dissemination, which has failed to reach families with babies aged less than five.

Next April the department plans to begin a national campaign on hand washing and environmental hygiene around schools, especially kindergartens.

The disease peaks in April-May and September-November.

It’s time to improve work safety

Vietnam is lagging behind many other countries, including most of its neighbours, in occupational safety and health.

The view was shared by experts at a March 14-15 workshop in Hanoi entitled “Strengthening national occupational safety and health system in hazardous work.”

“It’s time to take action now or it will be too late,” said Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) Bui Hong Linh.

According to the MOLISA, 606 workers died in work-related accidents in Vietnam last year, almost 10 percent increase from 2011. Nearly 6,800 occupational accidents occurred in 2012, resulting in a property loss of US$524,000 and US$3.95 million in compensation.   

But the reported cases in Vietnam are “incomplete”, said Linh, putting the actual number of occupational accidents per year at around 40,000. Mining, construction and chemical industry topped the list of sectors with the most occupational accidents and fatal cases.

“Unsafe work conditions in these industries have been causing lots of risks that lead to occupational accidents and diseases”, said ILO National Project Coordinator for occupational safety and health Nguyen Thai Hoa.

“It’s worrying that both work accidents and diseases in the industries, particularly mining and construction, tend to increase with a more severe impact”.

As most work accidents are traced back to human error, ILO Vietnam Country Director Gyorgy Sziraczki said Vietnam should go beyond workplaces to create increased awareness of occupational safety and health.

 “We must reach out to families, communities and schools where our greatest assets – young people – learn and prepare for work”, he said.

The ILO reported that every 15 seconds, 160 workers have a work-related accident and a worker dies from accident or disease globally.

The human cost of this daily adversity is vast and the economic burden of poor occupational safety and health practices is estimated at 4 percent of global Gross Domestic Product each year.

The Japanese Government and the ILO have been carrying out a 2012-2015 project in Vietnam in an attempt to improve the situation in its hazardous industries.

Project to build more sustainable learning society

E-learning courses on climate change for teachers will be launched at five primary schools in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue, which is vulnerable to flooding and the impacts of climate change.

The courses are part of the "Working together for a more resilient and sustainable society" project supported by UNESCO and Samsung that aims to enhance education.

Viet Nam is the first country to benefit from the work.

The project aims to support Viet Nam in shaping a more resilient and sustainable learning society by raising awareness about climate change among the community, media, authorities, parents and school principals. Issues to be highlighted include development of disaster risk reduction strategies for incorporation into the country's heritage site management plans.

The project will develop a community action plan as a response to the challenges of climate change, disasters and biodiversity loss while also raising awareness among schools principals and local authorities in the areas.

Head of Samsung Electronics Vietnam Wonh Shim said the project aims to create hope in the battle to save the world from global warming.

"We want to set up a ladder of hope for children who never stop dreaming in harsh conditions such as natural disasters and climate change," he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Vinh Hien stressed that addressing climate change and disasters requires efforts from the whole political system and the entire society.

"It should be undertaken with high consensus and determination from local, regional, national and global levels," he said.

House walls cracked, roofs collapsed by quarry blasting

Inside Nguyen Thi Lan's three-storey house, scattered cracks cover the walls and floor.

"The cracks get wider every day," Lan said. "I want to sell the house, but no one dares to buy it."
Hundreds of other households near Tay Dai Lao Quarry, located in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong's Bao Loc City, are in a similar boat. After the quarry received a rock blasting licence in 2011, explosions have occurred twice a month – making local residents fear for their safety.

"After the explosions started, houses got a lot of cracks," said a girl in Village 3 in Dai Lao Commune. "My parents moved to Loc Chau to rent another house and tried to sell our house, but so far, no one wants to buy it."

Pressure from the repeated blasts has not only cracked the walls of dozens of homes, but also caused roofs to cave in and rocks to fall into houses and gardens.

According to the local authorities, the explosions have affected more than 50 households.

Lai Duy Thao, director of the Fico – Bao Loc branch of Tan Uyen, which owns the mine, said that after an explosion conducted late last year caused serious consequences, the company brought experts to the scene to explain what had happened to local authorities. However, they could not figure out what had gone wrong.

"I had to abandon my 7,000 sq.m tea and coffee garden and open an embroidery workshop, but it was still affected by the mine. Meanwhile, compensation from the mining company has not been satisfactory," said Duong Quoc Tung, another local resident.

Local authorities requested the quarry owner inspect the losses and asked the Department of Industry and Trade to examine the impact of the mining process on people's lives.

World women’s leaders share success tips

Fifteen female leaders from foreign governments, corporations, non-governmental organisations and research institutes gave tips for success in life and business to students on March 14.

Hundreds of young people gathered at Hanoi Foreign Trade University to share and exchange ideas with the foreign delegates, many of whom are advisors to the Women and Public Policy Programme (WAPPP) of Harvard Kennedy School.  

The female delegates answered questions raised by participants, concerning their future career, goals, passion and study.

Carol Perrin, who works for a law firm, pointed out that many university students are worried about their future career as the market economy presents both opportunities and challenges.

“I studied law and did not know what to do after graduating from the school,” said Perrin. “But what I studied helped broaden my knowledge. I was not worried much about my future because I realised my career would bring benefits to the community.”

She suggested Vietnamese students seize any chance during their study to arouse passion and meet personal goals.

Discussions focused on soft power, work-life balance, women and differences in the competitive business environment, and female leaders’ vision.

HCM City focuses on transport infrastructure

Sixteen new transport infrastructure projects and 12 transport projects that are under construction will be given top priority this year by the city government.

Among the prioritised transport projects recently approved by the city's authority are three overpasses that will help curb traffic jams at intersections.

These include overpasses at the Cay Go Roundabout in District 11; at February 3 Street - Nguyen Tri Phuong Intersection in District 10; and Cong Hoa - Hoang Hoa Tham Intersection. Construction is expected to be completed this year.

Several delayed transport projects will be given priority as well, such as the one to expand the Inter-provincial Road No 10; the project to fight water erosion of Thanh Da Canal in Binh Thanh District; and the project to upgrade Nguyen Thi Thap Street in District 7.

In an effort to complete work on schedule, the city has also urged the acceleration of the ODA (official development assistance)-funded projects, including metro lines No 1 and No 2, a project to dredge Soai Rap River (Phase 2).

Total investments for these major transport infrastructure projects, including ODA-funded projects, amount to over VND145 trillion ($6.9 billion).

Tat Thanh Cang, director of HCM City's Department of Transport, said this year the city would focus its capital on construction of the most urgent projects.

These projects, many of them of medium-scale, are crucial for the development of the city's economy.

Cang said the project to build the road to Hiep Phuoc River Port is one of the major projects to be accelerated.

The project to dredge Soai Rap River (Phase 2) will be completed next year.

If the project to dredge the river is completed but there is not a road, the port would not be able to operate at full capacity.

Firm produces helmets without valid licence

Authorities have discovered a company that is producing helmets despite failing to renew their production licence.

Nearly 5,000 helmets with quality certification stamps that were not up to date were found in Long Bien District's Bo De Ward, according to the Ha Noi Market Watch office on Wednesday.

The Song Long Industry Co-operative had failed to renew its production licence, raising concerns about the quality of the helmets, which were confiscated.

Ho Chi Minh City Market Watch officers also seized more than 10,000 substandard helmets recently.

Drought causes water shortage for homes

Around 20,000 households in southern Tien Giang Province are facing shortages of water for daily use and irrigation as a result of a prolonged drought and saline-water intrusion.

Areas affected the most are Go Cong Dong and Tan Phu Dong districts and Go Cong commune, according to the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Local authorities are taking drastic measures to provide water for local residents, including work on installing an additional 72 public taps and tens of thousands of metres of water pipes along with upgrades and construction of more pumping stations with a total capital investment of VND913.8 billion (US$657,000).

Salt water intrusion is forecast to last until May this year in the province.

Fire destroys telco's cables, storehouse

A fire yesterday, March 14, destroyed tens of coils of cables, a car, motorbike and a storehouse at the Post and Telecommunication Company in the southern Dong Thap Province.

Local authorities including firefighters and soldiers were mobilized to fight the fire, which was distinguished after one hour.

Total damage was estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dong.

The cause is under investigation.

Meanwhile, a blaze broke out in a coffee shop of Bac Lieu Province and burned down two houses nearby the same day.

VNN/VOV/VNS

ASEM, water management, Hand-foot-mouth disease, transport infrastructure
 
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