A man walks by a fishing boat on Thi Vai, a tributary of Dong Nai River that is bounded by industrial factories in southern Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Saigon Tiep Thi
Rivers across the country receive 240,000 cubic meters of untreated sewage discharge everyday, or half the country's sewage waste output, because many factories don't have treatment plants.
A report released by the Ministry of Science and Technology at a meeting Friday showed that only 66 percent of 179 operating industrial zones are using or building wastewater treatment plants, and only around 58 percent of the daily discharge of 622,773 cubic meters is treated before reaching waterways.
Bui Van Quyen, head of the southern office of the ministry, said pollution from industrial zones has reached an "alarming point" as companies are either not interested in investing in a treatment plants or able to afford one.
Vietnam only had one industrial zone in 1963 in Dong Nai Province neighboring Ho Chi Minh City and the number has jumped to 289 at the present, though many are not operating yet.
Officials at the conference expressed concerns for waterways in the Mekong Delta, which is the target of industrialization in the coming years, as it currently bears 120 industrial zones over 25,000 hectares, and the figures are planned to double in 2020.
They said the delta, which has the most waterways in the country, might repeat the story of the southwestern industrial area that includes Ho Chi Minh City, Dong Nai and Binh Duong Provinces.
A report issued November last year, after five years of tests, by Ho Chi Minh City authorities, showed that the Dong Nai River, the longest to run exclusively within Vietnam, and the Saigon River, are becoming "increasingly polluted" by heavy metals, oil, fecal bacteria and microorganisms.
The salinity in the conjoining rivers has also increased, the study said, blaming the large number of industrial parks in the neighboring Binh Duong and Dong Nai Provinces, as well as small factories and breeding farms in Ho Chi Minh City's outlying Hoc Mon district.
As of the end of 2011, the Dong Nai River basin was home to 157 cooperatives, 12 craft villages and around 60 industrial zones, but only around one third of them treated their wastewater, while the rest dumped all their garbage directly into the river.
The Taiwanese MSG maker Vedan alone dumped 105 million liters of untreated wastewater into the Dong Nai River tributary Thi Vai through a secret pipe system between 1994 and 2008, when the scheme was uncovered.
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