Local scientists raised concern yet again over alarming levels of pollution in the Sai Gon River at a conference in Ho Chi Minh City Wednesday, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
The conference, held by HCMC Department of Science and Technology, aimed to find solutions to reduce pollution in the river that is the main water supply source for Vietnam's southern hub.
The river basin - running through HCMC, Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc and Tay Ninh Provinces - receives more than 748,000 cubic meters of domestic sewage, mostly from HCMC, each day, the conference heard.
There is just one facility - the Binh Hung Waste Treatment Plant - that operates on the river basin with a daily capacity of 141,000 cubic meters.
"This means only around 20 percent of domestic sewage is treated each day; the remaining part is dumped directly into the river," said Dr Le Viet Thang of the HCMC Department of Science and Technology.
A report submitted at the conference said only 21 of 49 industrial zones and export processing zones on the river basin had installed sewage treatment facilities.
However, even the treated water of some IZs and EPZs fails to meet required standards, it said.
Apart from industrial establishments, the production and husbandry activities of residents along the river banks also contribute to the pollution with around 65,000 cubic meters of untreated waste directly dumped into the river per day.
Tran Thanh Quang, deputy chief of the Binh Duong Province Environmental Protection Department, said 555 Binh Duong-based companies were fined a total VND12.6 billion (US$612,000) for environmental violations last year.
Only 20 percent of more than 5,000 companies in the province met environmental standard requirements, he said.
Prof Lam Minh Triet of the HCMC Department of Science and Technology said a sub-committee of the Dong Nai River Basin Environment Protection Committee should be established as soon as possible to protect water resources of the river (the Saigon River is joined 29 km northeast of Ho Chi Minh City by the Dong Nai River).
The sub-committee must be given powers equivalent to a province, with the staff comprising members of provincial People's Committees and representatives from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, he said.
Triet's suggestion was not supported by several delegates who said the establishment of a sub-committee may be pointless since the committee itself was not working effectively.
Dr Nguyen Thanh Hung of HCMC National University's Environment and Natural Resources Institute said the best solution was to closely supervise waste treatment processes of residential areas and IZs.
Triet proposed 13 projects focusing on treating waste from IZs, EPZs and residential areas and dredging the river and canals be implemented from now until 2015.
Quang of Binh Duong Province said local authorities had installed devices to supervise waste treatment at six IZs, and installations at the remaining IZs would be finished by the end of this year.
All opinions would be collected to draw up a "Protecting Saigon River" project plan which will be submitted to the HCMC government for approval, said Phan Minh Tan, director of the HCMC Science and Technology Department.