Around 700,000 cubic meters of untreated wastewater are released into the environment per day by 171 industrial zones in Vietnam, the Ministry of Environment reported on Tuesday.
The figure accounts for some 70 percent of the total one million cubic meters of wastewater produced by the zones, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) quoted its National Environment Report 2009 as saying.
According to the ministry, the untreated wastewater has caused pollution to surface water and decreased water quality, especially at the basins of the Dong Nai, Cau, Nhue and Day rivers.
Old industrial zones produce excessive air pollution due to outdated technologies and underdeveloped waste gas treatment systems, the report said.
Shortcomings were also found in treating solid waste, 20 percent of which produced by the zones is toxic waste, according to the report.
It noted that the environment pollution has increased the number of cases of occupational diseases, with 5,497 cases recorded between 1976-1990 and over 21,000 in 2004.
The ministry expected that the number of cases will rise to over 30,000 this year.
It estimated that people who live nearby factories suffer economic losses caused by diseases 3.5 times higher than those who don't.
In fact, the World Bank said losses caused by environmental pollution probably account for up to 5.5 percent of Vietnam's annual gross domestic product and cost the field of community health US$780 million annually.
In light of the report's release, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Pham Khoi Nguyen said his agency was supporting the People's Supreme Procuracy and the Ministry of Public Security in preparing the necessary documents to prosecute recent environmental regulation violators.
"We are being driven into a corner in terms of environmental matters and it's time to employ strong sanctions and deal with the cheats thoroughly and without mercy," Nguyen said.
However, the minister didn't elaborate which cases were being considered for prosecution.
In the meantime, Bui Cach Tuyen, head of MNRE's Environment Department, said Taiwanese-owned Vedan, which was found dumping untreated wastewater into the Thi Vai River for 14 years, didn't attend a meeting on paying compensations to farmers whose fields it's pollution damaged and destroyed.
Since its violation was found in 2008, the monosodium glutamate (MSG) maker has delayed paying compensations to affected farmers in Ho Chi Minh City, and the southern provinces of Dong Nai and Ba Ria Vung Tau , through which the river flows.
In its latest proposal to Vedan, HCMC asked the company to pay VND45.7 billion ($2.4 million) in compensation to affected farmers, according to Nguyen Trung Tin, vice chairman of the city's People's Committee.
Previously Ba Ria Vung Tau demanded a total compensation of VND53.6 billion (US$2.8 million), and Dong Nai asked for VND1.6 trillion ($84.4 million).