Nghia Hung A School, Nghia Hung, Nam Dinh Province, Vietnam



Reducing the Environmental Impact of Brick Factories in Lieu De Township

Presented by Students in 12A2 Class, Nghia Hung A Upper Secondary School

Lieu De Township, Nghia Hung District, Nam Dinh Province, Viet Nam

This project was supervised by Dang Thi Ngoc Ha

 

 

I. Objectives:

Find solutions to mitigate the impacts from brick factories on the environment and human health, and help reduce the risk of the greenhouse effect.

 

II. Our research method:

Observing, filming, photographing, interviewing, and talking with kiln owners and the people affected.

 

III. What we learned:

 

Lieu De Township in Nghia Hung district is a pleasant town with long streets, and is located along provincial road 490, next to a flowing river.  However, despite the poetic scenery, the town has developed rapidly and environmental pollution has become severely debilitating with smoke, dust, noise, and waste.

 

Through research and surveys, we found that the factor that causes the most serious pollution is smoke from the brick factories in the district.  Nghia Hung currently has many active brick kilns. There are as many as 30 of them in operation in the center of town, and areas along the Ninh Co River, connecting Nghia Hung district with Truc Ninh district, are especially problematic with about 10 furnaces situated here.  Although the chimneys of the brick kilns have been improved, they lack advanced gas processing technology.  Untreated gas is released directly into the air, where it dissipates into the environment.  The kilns operate throughout the year, regardless of weather conditions.

 

We went to visit a brick factory on a day in late autumn when the weather was very erratic, changing from rain to sun, and the kilns were active the entire time.  Even from a remote distance, we could see columns of smokestacks with white smoke billowing out.  In our interview with a kiln owner, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hoai, a resident of Lieu De Township, said, “The furnaces have no exhaust treatment systems, but the chimneys are built high, so the surrounding areas shouldn’t be affected.  However, the facts recorded in our observation belie this.  Kilns were adjacent to residential areas; dust from kilns flies blind as fog, covering the dirt roads, and making it difficult to walk.

 

 


A. The harmful effects of brick factories

 

We asked a classmate’s uncle, who owns a factory that produces bricks, to allow us to tour the facility. The smell of furnace oil, coal, and dust combined to form a noxious gas mixture that caused us to feel nauseous… and quite sickly.  We spoke with the workers who are directly affected by the kiln emissions. Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hanh, a brick kiln worker, remarked, “At first it was hard, but I eventually got used to it.”  She laughed.  When we asked about the periodic health examination, she answered, “No, there is no disease to examine…and no money.” Laughing again, she explained, “We don’t have health insurance and going to hospital costs a lot of money.” Workers here are not aware of the direct harm to their health caused by dust and exhaust.  Working in these conditions heightens the risk of respiratory disease, but their monthly income, which ranges only from 1.5 to 2 million Vietnamese dong (or VND; about US $72-$96), makes healthcare ill affordable.

 

We interviewed households around the brick factory, and many residents spoke with a sense of frustration. “In recent years, we have had to live in a polluted environment, with a growing number of brick kilns springing up. Our houses are always full of smoke, and the smell of coal and soil. We can’t stand living in such conditions. Dust always covers furniture, and it immediately returns after we clean. On rainy days, even though the furnace dust is suppressed, it is very difficult to travel because of muddy streets.”

 

According to Dr. Le Thi Tuyet, assistant professor and the head of the Center for Exploration of Respiratory Function at the Ho Chi Minh Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, the kiln dust contains many pollutants, such as sulfur oxides that cause airway spasms, and nitrogen oxides that injure airways and cause respiratory bronchiolitis.  In terms of the environment, smoke and dust are constantly discharged directly into the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect and global climate change.

 

A project called “continuous vertical kilns” has received the support of many scientists and people in the area, but the brick kiln owners are not sympathetic to it because of the cost.  This project was first applied in Phu Yen.  Master Duong Van Nghi working at Phu Yen’s Department of Science and Industry explained, “Continuous vertical kilns are only 45% less economical in comparison to coal fired with wood.  Moreover, the gas flow is reduced 11.5 times, but it reduces sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide emissions by six times, and the temperature of gas is low.”

 

These brick kilns are designed as dual furnaces that can produce four million bricks each year, and be in service continuously without stopping, unlike normal kilns.  In general, each continuous vertical furnace saves 75 million VND (or US $3,600) of fuel compared with traditional kilns of the same capacity.  Old-style kilns have many disadvantages, such as high fuel consumption and exhaust emissions leading to serious environmental pollution.

 

However, the model of vertical kilns requires continuous investment.  Each kiln needs about 400 million VND (or US $19,200) at least, whereas a traditional furnace costs only tens of millions VND. Furthermore, according to the guidelines of the Ministry of Construction, an alternative solution to the brick kilns is used at the Tuynen kilns, and there they use an even more modern technology because the vertical furnace is a potential risk.

 

Kim Ngan Commune of Co-Production of Bricks, Dao Duc village, Vi Xuyen district, Ha Giang province, has successfully applied new technology to a brick fuel gas treatment system. Exhaust gas treatments process the heating, and the air kiln’s waste is collected back by the absorption through a seal and reservoir system.  Then, workers continuously spray lime when it rains, and lime after the implementation process, easing the stress on people’s air passages. The cooperative has invited the Department of Municipal Resources and Environment to test the technology and the results showed that the levels of sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide were more than 80% lower compared with the gases emitted by other kilns, and they reached Vietnamese standards for emissions into the environment.

 

Our “Going Green” proposal for new technology in the construction of brick kilns will combat lung deterioration.  Traditional kilns increase people’s susceptibility to infections, and they also increase susceptibility to allergies.  Moreover, dust causes asthma attacks and exacerbates chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as well as respiratory mortality and cardiovascular disease.

 

In addition to affecting health and human lives, smoke and dust also damage crops planted near the kiln factories.  Smoke and heat from the brick kilns burn rice leaf, choke rice spear leaf, and they reduce productivity of crops.  The exploitation of land resources to supply materials for making bricks also affects the environment.  As one factory owner explained, he has to purchase earth to make the bricks, and this is usually transported from somewhere, though some of it is mined from available land in the yard.

 

Thorough our observations, we could see that the banks of the rivers are all privately owned land, which causes traffic congestion and yet more pollution in the surrounding environments. The waste from the kiln also contributes to serious environmental pollution.  Currently, ash from the fuel tiles is used to produce ceramic bearings. But the waste byproducts are removed from the furnace and poured out along the river byways.  This not only mars places of natural beauty, but also encroaches upon the roads and pollutes the environment.  To make matters worse, whenever trucks with bricks or slag pass through, all the roadways become choked with dust.

 

B. How difficult is it to get rid of brick factories?

 

Under government guidelines, by the end of year 2010, all the brick kilns throughout Vietnam must stop operation due to the risk of environmental pollution.  But many continue to operate, and local authorities appear confused about the regulations.

 

The main challenges to changing the situation are:

 

1. To create jobs for workers, each brick factory currently employs an average of 10 to 12 workers.  In all, the brick factories in Lieu De Township employ around 300 people.

2. Tuynen ceramic has difficulty competing with handmade bricks. The price of Tuynen ceramics is far higher than the price of handmade bricks.  Furthermore, there are too few Tuynen ceramics to meet the needs of local construction.

3. The investment of capital.  The brick kiln owners usually spend in the tens of million VND (10 million VND = US $480) in construction, which can be recovered quickly compared to kilns constructed with more expensive but environmentally friendly technology.

 

C. Alternatives to traditional brick kilns

 

Using the Internet and other sources of information, we researched many localities across the country to find solutions to help our community address this environmental problem. Although some improvements can be seen and felt with factories raising the chimneys, these measures only reduce the impact on the surrounding local construction.  To significantly reduce their negative impact on the environment and related health risks, brick factories should use gas treatment system technologies.  Though our ideas were endorsed by the brick factory owners, they say their high costs keep them from implementing our ideas.

 

 


  1. November 20, 2011

    Thank you so much for sharing this project. As a student from New Jersey in the United States, your problem with local factories is one I have never encountered. When I began to read your article, I was hoping that I would be able to make a comment with a thoughtful suggestion about the future. However, I was upset to realize that I could not come to any conclusions different from yours. It does not seem like factory owners have any economic motivation to make their businesses more eco-friendly. I hope that in the future, your government will recognize this problem more and take a greater stand in your favor by taxing emissions or giving the owners another economic incentive to go green. It is sad that people will only decide to help the environment when there is money to be gained, but if that is the only way to save local people from health risks, then I hope the government will step in. Is there anyway you can ask your government to help you more in this matter? Can you ask them to actually enforce their regulations? I think the best situation would be to keep the factories open for the sake of people’s jobs and the local economy, but heavily tax emissions.

  2. Lauren Kelly
    November 20, 2011

    I’m sorry that the brick factory owners were not able to implement your ideas! You clearly have done your research on this topic and have solid ideas for how to help solve this problem. Pollution is one of the biggest challenges facing our generation today, and the way in which your school has tackled this situation is admirable. Schools all over the world should be looking for a way to help lessen pollution in their areas.

    ~Lauren Kelly
    Ridgewood High School
    Ridgewood NJ, USA

  3. Nick
    December 3, 2011

    Impressive research and presentation! I agree with Lauren that schools should engage students in addressing issues of pollution. We need more opportunities for hands-on work, like what you were able to do here, instead of sitting in our classroom memorizing information for tests or being asked to repeat lab experiments found in our textbooks!!! You’re lucky you get to do things like this at your school. Great job!

  4. Kathy N.
    December 4, 2011

    Your detailed research and informative data really impressed me. I also appreciated that you provided dollar equivalent for VND (which I assume is Vietnamese money). Thank you for your thoughtfulness and for sharing what is really a very interesting project.

  5. Gigi
    February 27, 2012

    Very interesting research and nice presentation. Am doing an assignment on the environmental impacts of building materials in the built environment and your research has been very helpful.

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