Pollution on the rise in Vietnam's major rivers

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Oil spills, among other factors, have contributed to heavy pollution in the Dong Nai River

Persistent demographic and industrial problems over the past year have worsened the pollution in southern Vietnam's major waterways, the Dong Nai and Saigon Rivers, Ho Chi Minh City authorities said.

A recent report by the city Department of Natural Resources and Environment said the Dong Nai River, the longest to run exclusively within Vietnam, from the Central Highlands to Ho Chi Minh City, and the Saigon River have been "increasingly polluted" by heavy metals, oil, fecal bacteria and microorganisms.

The salinity in the conjoining rivers also increased, according to the report issued November 11 after five years of tests.

It said the increase in pollution was the result of long-entrenched problems such as high population density that led to high volumes of untreated household sewage, as well as the poor treatment of medical waste, especially by public hospitals.

But the biggest threat came from the large number of industrial parks in Binh Duong and Dong Nai Provinces, as well as from small factories and breeding farms in Ho Chi Minh City's outlying Hoc Mon and Cu Chi Districts.

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's tributary Thi Vai through a secret pipe system between 1994 and 2008 until it was busted.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in 2011 already warned of "alarming" levels of pollution in the Dong Nai River, saying that organic and solid waste exceeded the permitted limits by three to nine times.

Dong Nai authorities in late 2011 planned to relocate 520 production facilities from urban areas by 2014, but so far, nothing has happened. Industrial sewage from the province alone is estimated to total more than 500,000 cubic meters a day.

The recent report called for quick intervention from the central government to clean up the rivers, as they supply water to around 20 million people.

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