Efforts are on to improve the quality of the Dong Nai River and safeguard the health of 20 million people living along it, but huge investments in wastewater treatment and greater co-operation between riverine provinces are required to make any progress.
“The HCM City Department of Natural Resources and Environment has investigated over 310 enterprises, and 100 of them were fined and temporarily closed,” Cao Tung Son, deputy head of the department’s Environment Protection Agency, was quoted as saying by Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper.
The department has also provided support to 37 companies that had been ordered to move out of the city due to pollution.
Financial support has been provided to companies for dealing with environmental protection at very low, or even zero, interest, Son added.
All of the severely polluting factories have been moved out of the city, and all 15 industrial and processing zones and high-tech parks in the city have wastewater treatment plants.
Some important canal systems like Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe, Tau Hu-Ben Nghe, Doi -Te, Thay Cai-Can Giuoc River are cleaner since wastewater is no longer discharged into them.
Several wastewater treatment plants have been built along such canals, including the Binh Hung Hoa plant in Binh Tan District with a capacity of 30,000 cubic metres of wastewater per day. It treats wastewater from houses situated on an area of around 785 hectares along the Den canal.
The Binh Hung plant in Binh Chanh District treats all household wastewater from Districts 1, 3, 5, 7, and 10, and has a capacity of 141,000cu.m a day.
Tan Quy Dong in District 7 serves the Tan Quy Dong residential area in Tan Phong Ward and has a capacity of 500cu.m a day.
The good outcomes notwithstanding, the city needs hundreds of millions of dollars to build wastewater treatment facilities in many more places.
It is now seeking investment in 12 such facilities, including Tay Sai Gon with a capacity of 120,000cu.m, Tan Hoa -Lo Gom (300,000cu.m), Bac Sai Gon 1 (170,000cu.m), Tham Luong -Ben Cat (250,000cu.m), Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe (480,000cu.m in the first stage, increasing to 800,000cu.m).
“In recent times we have worked closely with neighbouring provinces Binh Duong, Tay Ninh, Long An, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, and Dong Nai to deal with inter-provincial pollution, improve canals, strengthen investigation and supervision to stop enterprises from dumping effluents directly into canals and rivers,” Nguyen Thi Thanh My, deputy director of the department, said.
HCM City and Long An Province have built a solid waste treatment plant and drawn up contingency plans to cope with oil spills, but there are a host of problems in co-coordinating and implementing inter-provincial missions, she added.
There is urgent need to protect the water used by 20 million people in the Dong Nai basin, but if only HCM City takes action and the provinces do not, its efforts would come to nought, she said.
There is also need to increase public awareness of environmental protection. Education has improved awareness somewhat but civic sense is still mostly absent. As a result, it is common for people and factories to dump their waste directly into canals and rivers.