‘Outdoor’ toilets an unsightly grievance, health threat in Việt Nam hub

Open, makeshift toilets, still a common sight in Hồ Chí Minh City’s suburban districts, are a stark contrast to the southern hub’s modernity and growth.

The improvised toilets are typically erected on bamboo poles in lakes, canals or rivers and shabbily covered with canvas, or used planks of wood.

A hole is made in the middle so that users can freely answer the call of nature right in front of the prying eyes of people traveling on the street, particularly those from other places and foreigners.

Human waste along with garbage dumped into the lakes or rivers is not only the culprit of air pollution but it is also responsible for digestive diseases, particularly diarrhea.

It also increases transmission risks among the community, as locals typically do their laundry or dishes and swim in the rivers, or even use the water for bathing and cooking. 

A few drownings among young kids happened when they fell into the water while relieving themselves in the ‘outdoor’ toilets.

The banks of Đôi Canal in District 8 are now crisscrossed with slum houses and ‘outdoor’ toilets.

Toilets“Outdoor” toilets can easily be found outside the slum houses along Tàu Hủ Canal in Hồ Chí Minh City’s District 8

“We don’t have land to build our houses, let alone land for self-disintegrative toilets.”

A local explained.

D., owner of a house along Ruột Ngựa Canal in the same district, said that though she has built a bathroom, her waste pipe leads directly to the canal.

“Locals here all wish to have self-disintegrative toilets which are environment- and human-friendly.

However, we’re on the waiting list of site clearance and relocation, so we have to make do with this temporary way of living.”

D. admitted.

She complained that the situation is particularly worse during high-tide seasons, when the slum houses are flooded with sewage and garbage.

According to Nguyễn Thị Thợ, a local civilian leader, Quarter 5 in District 8’s Ward 16 is home to more than 40 slum houses along the canals, all of which pump their waste directly into the waterways.

Households in the suburban district of Bình Chánh’s Lê Minh Xuân Ward also erect ‘outdoor’ toilets in their own ponds and use the waste matter to feed their fish.

Nguyễn Hoàng Chương, a specialist of District 8’s Office of Natural Resources and Environment, expressed concerns that the existence of such ‘outdoor’ toilets is not only an aesthetic grievance, but their waste and garbage also cause sediment, which impedes the flow of rivers and canals.

Chương noted that water samples taken from several places in the rivers and canals throughout the district last year yielded high levels of coliform bacteria – the rod-shaped bacteria that are normally found in the colons of humans and animals.

Regular contact with such contaminated, stagnant water supply makes users particularly vulnerable to digestive diseases and dengue fever, Chương stressed.

According to Đào Hồng Hà, an official of Bình Chánh District, dozens of acute diarrhea cases were reported among households in the district’s Vĩnh Lộc A and Lê Minh Xuân Communes earlier this month.

Seven other communes in the district are also highly prone to the disease.

The district’s government has recently offered locals loans totaling over VND7 billion (US$329,474) to build self-disintegrative toilets, and provided them with access to clean water supplies at cheap prices.

However, Hà noted that some 100 households in Lê Minh Xuân Commune are migrants from other provinces with no permanent residence books and thus are not eligible for the loans.

 Source: Tuổi Trẻ News

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