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Vientiane Opens Hotline To Report Fire Emergencies, Smoke Out Firebugs

Source: Vientiane Times

Vientiane authorities have opened hotline number 1168, so the public can report fire emergencies and the illegal burning of garbage, rice fields and scrubland in and around the city.

According to an order issued by the Vientiane Mayor recently, the 24-hour hotline will accept information on fire emergencies and illicit burning in the capital. Officials will take action to control any fires, and anyone caught illegally lighting fires will be penalised in line with the regulations, depending on the damage caused.

The order aims to prevent fires from spreading and ensure the control of smoke which is the main cause of air pollution.

The burning of garbage, rice fields and scrubland has been forbidden since the Vientiane Administration Office issued the notice last month, underscoring the need to control burning and lower the level of microscopic particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment is also assigned to partner with local authorities in villages and districts to implement the edict and carry out inspections to ensure compliance. The overall objectives of the ban are to protect the environment, prevent forest fires and limit air pollution.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will be responsible for bushfire monitoring and prevention, especially at times when farmers are preparing to plant new crops.

In addition, the forestry sector must have plans and measures in place to tackle bushfires when they occur. 

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Wildfires in Laos and neighbouring countries caused dangerous levels of air pollution last year, especially in Vientiane. Particulate matter (PM) 2.5 pollution occurred in many parts of the country and pollution in the capital exceeded the safety level.

Burning garbage also causes air pollution as the capital grows. Vientiane covers an area of 3,920 square kilometres with a growing population, and increasing amounts of garbage are generated.

Last year, 300-350 tonnes of rubbish was produced daily, even though city authorities were unable to collect more than 100 tonnes a day, according to Vientiane City Operations and Management Services.

As a result, the roadsides and other public places are littered with garbage, which is extremely unsightly with many neighbourhoods unclean.

Most of the garbage consists of food waste, construction debris and plastic packaging. Many people either burn their garbage or dump it on public land. Rivers are also popular dumping grounds.