A new law was needed to tackle water pollution a workshop has been told in Ha Noi.
The new law, together with another call for the National Assembly to exercise its supervision of the water environment, came after a health ministry report that each year 9,000 people die and 200,000 others were diagnosed with cancers because of using polluted water.
Nguyen Ngoc Ly, director of the Centre for Environmental and Community Research (CECR), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Ha Noi, said water pollution had been institutionalised in several legal documents, however the problem had not been solved and now seemed to have gone out of hand.
She said the Law on Environmental Protection and the Law on Water Resources, which govern this issue, were too generic and this led to poor enforcement.
“Further, inconsistent provisions on ways to control water pollution in these laws created confusion about whom, what and how they target,” she said.
Ly added another problem was that the current laws did not detail the technology to be used for water pollution treatment, which was a loophole where State money could be spent on outdated technology. Corruption was also often involved.
Nguyen Van Bay, director of Department of Water Resources Management (DWRM) under the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MONRE) admitted that limited human and financial resources and poor awareness and law compliance were to blame for water pollution.
He suggested the Government add criminal penalties for acts of polluting water resources, increase fines, build a national system for monitoring activities, and publicise the names of establishments that caused pollution or threatened the environment.
A DWRM report shows that most of the main rivers in Viet Nam are polluted. It also says that agricultural chemicals (pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers) and animal feeds and their residues were deposited on the beds of rivers and ponds.
It said these were the breeding ground for pathogens and harmful algae in surface water and their percolation through the soil contaminated groundwater.
DWRM statistics show that 70 per cent of industrial parks in Viet Nam have no waste facilities or substandard waste-water facilities.
Out of the nation’s 639 industry clusters, which are a smaller version of industrial parks or industrial estates, only 42 possess a concentrated waster-water system.
Almost all craft villages throughout the country discharge waste water directly into rivers, canals and ponds.
Viet Nam has 3,450 rivers that are longer than 10 kilometres, containing a total 830 to 840 billion cubic metres per year. It also has 2,900 lakes and reservoirs with a total holding capacity of 65 billion cubic metres.
The workshop titled “Policy and Law on Controls of Water Pollution” was held on May 8 in Ha Noi by the National Assembly’s Committee for Science, Technology and Environment, the MONRE and the Coalition for Clean Water, a Ha Noi-based NGO.