Troubled waters in Cam Ranh Airport

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Over the past two years, a shortage of fresh water has become a constant problem to authorities of Cam Ranh International Airport in the coastal province of Khanh Hoa.

The 750-hectare (1,853-acre) airport came into operation in December 2009, and is among the busiest airports in the country as it carries passengers to the resort town of Nha Trang, a popular tourist attraction.

The airport has 150 staff members, serves millions of passengers, and has had no other choice but to use untreated water.

"The airport receives an average 2,500 passengers a day, and as many as 4,600 passengers a day during peak season. We need 100-120 cubic meters of water daily," said Nguyen Dinh Giang, the airport deputy director.

The water was directly taken from the nearby lakes and intended for trees only, but the airport has no alternatives.

"To make the situation worse, water supply is occasionally disrupted, especially in dry season," Giang said.

An airport employee said there are days when there is no water for air conditioners and the airport becomes hot and suffocating. Passengers often have to buy bottled water to hand wash.

Water shortage also affects restaurants and stores inside the airport.

"Our restaurant receives 200-300 passengers a day; we need more than two cubic meters of water to serve them," said Le Thi Hong Toan, a restaurant manager.

"As untreated water cannot be used, we have to buy fresh water from Nha Trang. Water costs inevitably roll over to passengers," she said.

The airport staff also buys bottled water for drinking, while untreated water is used for air-conditioning and hygiene system.

Airport authorities have drilled three wells for water, but the water pumped from those wells is also contaminated.

"Pumped water is polluted, thus it can be used for hygiene system only. People using this water have been infected with skin and eye diseases," Giang said.

Technical officers also complained about the lack of clean water, saying air conditioners broke down often because muddy water left dregs in the machines.

When Khanh Hoa provincial government built the Cam Ranh International Airport some 35 kilometers away from the bustling Nha Trang Town, they did not include a water supply plant in the construction plan.

A senior provincial official told Thanh Nien, on condition of anonymity, that a water supply plant would soon be built on the northern part of the Cam Ranh Peninsula. As the airport is part of the northern part's zoning, the airport must wait until the plant is finished.

The Cam Ranh International Airport has among the longest and widest runways in Vietnam. It is capable of receiving large-sized aircrafts such as Airbus A-321, A300-600, B-767, and B-777.

The airport plans to build a second runway by 2020 to receive 5.5 million passengers and 100,000 tons of cargo a year.

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