Newly cleaned and dredged canals around HCM City are quickly being re-polluted by locals who dump waste directly into them.
Every day 20 workers from the city’s Urban Environment Company collect around five tonnes of waste from the nine kilometre Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe canal. The quantity could double during holidays and weekends. All this does not even include the rubbish that sinks to the bottom.
The city had spent US$300 million over 10 years to upgrade the canal.
Things are virtually the same in the Tan Hoa – Lo Gom canal in District 6, which has just seen its first phase of upgrade completed at a cost of VND5 trillion ($235 million).
But plenty of waste is found on the street along the three-kilometre section recently upgraded and in the water.
“I don’t know why many people have very low awareness,” Tin Tuc (News) newspaper quoted Muoi, a District 6 resident, as saying.
“Authorities spend a lot of money to upgrade the canal but even before the work is finished, people want to re-pollute it.”
Tests by the city Department of Natural Resources and Environment found that biological and chemical pollutants in city canals are 10 to 1,000 times higher than permissible limits.
This is mostly because domestic waste water is released directly into them without treatment.
The pollution is horrific when the tide is low.
Speaking about who is responsible for preventing such pollution, a department employee said the city has mandated that districts are responsible and their leaders face fines in case of failure.
“But if upstream districts manage poorly, downstream districts will also suffer. Therefore, it is hard to fine leaders.” Le Quynh Dai, deputy chairman of the District 8 People’s Committee, said, “We are educating local residents not to throw rubbish into canals to both protect the environment and water flow during the flood season.”
This is the prevalent situation. “The best solution for the problem is for local authorities and local communities to take responsibility,” Assoc Prof Dr Ho Phi Long of the Water Research and Climate Change Institute at the Viet Nam National University – HCM City, said.
“Besides, the city should have comprehensive solutions.”
A top official from the Urban Environment Company suggested slapping huge fines on local authorities as well as those dumping rubbish to solve the problem.
“Installing cameras along canal banks will also be helpful in identifying rubbish throwers.”