Thursday, December 16, 2010

Occupational Health & Safety in Hanoi

Dong Da lake; the good days

I currently work for two different schools in Hanoi. One is right next to Dong Da Lake. Celine and I visited the lake in the first few days after we arrived in Hanoi. We walked around it, had a coffee by the water and took some random tourist photos.

A few months ago they emptied the lake. Not long after, the rubbish started piling up and all the men eating at the lakeside restaurants used the emptiness as an easy access toilet. I ride by the lake on a small road for about 100m before taking a hard right down a small alley, soon reaching my school. As a passed the restaurants the stench of stale urine would waft through the air tattoeing itself in my nostrils. I guess I can understand the laziness of pissing in the most practical and quickest place, which in this case happens to be an empty lake, but I can't comprehend how these guys can eat through that smell.

Rubbish in Dong Da Lake

To keep up with appearances they filled the lake for the 1000 years of Hanoi celebrations. All the rubbish was collected and the area once again looked nice. As soon as the celebrations were over they emptied the lake and plans were underway to build a train station in its place. Now, the rubbish is back and the locals again have a toilet (although I am pretty sure they use the lake when it's full). Big concrete pillars have been put up around the lake. My small 100m dash along the lake now resembles a war zone. I don't really know what they are doing but workers are digging, and piling and generally causing a mess which makes my short ride somewhat of an obstacle. On either side big holes have been dug, large pipes removed, concrete and dirt piled. Men, covered in dirt with a dodgy electric power drill in hand, stand a meter deep working intently on what looks risky and unsafe electrics . All this was happening in peak hour traffic as bikes were flooding in each direction. I could have, and often considered, patting one of the workers on the head as I passed. I decided it was more important to concentrate on the road in front of me.

Sometimes the traffic is horrendous. As I crawled along the now dirt and dusty road I would wait for the cause. More often than not it is two cars at a stalemate, meeting each other in opposite directions with only enough room for one car. With no organization on the roads it takes a while to sort out the mess before you can find a small gap to pass and continue on your way. All this is happening as the road is being pulled up, holes dug, electrical work done while men are happily drinking, eating and pissing.

I had a late class last Friday which starts at 7.45pm. At this time the roads are much quieter and the workers have stopped. My little stretch along the side of the lake is quite peaceful at this hour. It is still dusty but there is no traffic. But, there is also no street lighting and virtually no lights from the nearby houses. There is definitely no "Road Works" signs or warnings about all the work that is going on. The street is small and a little bendy at points and I nearly rode right into a one meter ditch. I didn't see it until the last second. I swerved and continued on the bumpy, semi-destroyed road until my turn. The lack of safety is comical, that is of course unless you get hurt. I have avoided any serious injuries so far, touch wood, but I would not like to see the local census on workplace injuries; both for employees and members of the general public.

1 comment:

  1. That lake served as a natural catchment for rain water. Once the train station is in place, all that water will surely flood the surrounding streets when it rains in Hanoi. Bravos for Commie civil engineerings.