Vietnam is using its major rivers as dumping grounds or excavation sites, and this poses a risk of severe water shortage for tens of millions of people in the near future, experts warn.
Members of Vietnam Rivers Network (VNR), the country’s largest advocacy group for water resource protection, said at a conference Saturday that rivers in Vietnam “are being heavily exploited.”
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment had estimated in 2010 that 1.1 million cubic meters of wastewater were dumped into freshwater sources every day, and the volume is expected to surge to 2.4 million cubic meters by the end of the decade.
VNR said unless the water environment is improved, around 30 million people living along rivers are facing a clear risk of water shortage, which would be severe for the entire country in future.
Most of the pollution happens in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s biggest cities, nearby provinces with intense industrial activity, and the Mekong Delta, where aquaculturists have many fish farms along the river and hydropower dams upstream have affected the river flow and water quality.
Tran Thi Le Anh, a senior environment official at the ministry, said many rivers in Hanoi and nearby provinces are heavily polluted by waste discharged from trade villages.
“They stink terribly in the dry season. The water quality has reached alarming levels.”
Dr Dao Trong Tu, advisor to VNR, said around 40 kilometers of the Red River through Hanoi has been damaged by waste discharge and “minced” by unregulated construction of houses, farms and sports grounds.
Continuous sand dredging in the river has also changed the river’s flow and poses a high risk of flooding and erosion, he (she?) said.
The Saigon River has seen bacterial contamination increase manifold since just last year.
The Dong Nai River, the main water source for the southern region, including 10 million in HCMC, is also suffering from increasing pollution due to the industrial and residential waste dumped in the 11 provinces it runs along.
The environment ministry has not settled a debate whether a real estate company should be allowed to fill up 77,200 square meters of the river for a housing development.
Though regulations require rivers and streams to have a protected corridor of five to 70 meters on either side, the environment ministry is still waiting for various agencies to file official reports on possible environment impacts from the project.
Dao Thi Viet Nga, management director of VNR, said she is sad the ministry is still considering approval for a project that according to the network will cause erosion, change the current and pollute the river, the longest running wholly within Vietnam at over 586 kilometers.
“Our point is the project should be ended immediately. We don't need more environment impact assessments; it would be a waste of resources.”
Nga even said the authorities might have decided to approve the project already, and any environment assessment would be an eyewash and only for public consumption.