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Bringing back To Lich River from the dead requires a comprehensive solution

Authorities in Hanoi are considering a proposal to recover To Lich River, which was once one of the capital city’s most beautiful rivers but has been ruined by serious pollution and the discharge of thousands of cubic metres of untreated wastewater.

Hanoi debates measures to clean up To Lich River
To Lich River clean-up shows progress
Hanoi starts To Lich River cleanup with Japanese technology

Illustrative image -- Photo: Tienphong


To Lich River, with a total length of 14km, runs through six districts of Ba Dinh, Cau Giay, Dong Da, Thanh Xuan, Hoang Mai and Thanh Tri. Its starting point is in Nghia Do Ward, of Cau Giay District and the ending point flows to Nhue River in Huu Hoa Commune, Thanh Tri District.

Under the proposal, a pumping station, worth about VND150 billion (US$6.4 million), would be built to carry water from Hong (Red) River into West Lake and then cleaning it for depositing into To Lich River. The proposed station would have a capacity of 156,000 cubic metres per hour.

The solution is believed to be the cheapest and most efficient for recovering the river, according to Ha Noi Drainage One Member Limited Company – the designer of the proposal.
The move is very welcome.

If the river is really recovered as planned, it will help not only return a beautiful river to the city’s dwellers but also allow the development of tourism services as many other capitals do with their river.

However, concerns over the effectiveness of the project have been raised.

Experts say the project would not solve the root cause of the pollution because the river receives daily hundreds of thousand of cubic metres of untreated wastewater, mostly from households.

Dang Hung Vo, former minister of Natural Resources and Environment, said the project would be feasible if all household wastewater was collected and treated.

Truong Manh Tien, president of Hanoi’s Lake Club, said there must be a comprehensive solution to clean up the river.

"If we select an option based on cost without considering the root cause of the problem, the solution is meaningless," Tien said.

“The most important thing is treating the household wastewater that constantly pollutes the river,” he said.

Former minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Vu Trong Hong agreed with Vo and Tien.

Hong said if the project only used water from the Hong (Red) River to clean up To Lich River, then the polluted water would flow to Nhue River, and Day River and return to the Hong (Red) River because the rivers are connected.

“So, what is the meaning of the project?” he added.

What to do

Offering solutions, Hong said first, authorised agencies should dredge the river. Second, they had to find somewhere to bury the mud taken from the river. Last, they were advised to collect and treat the wastewater.

While authorities dwell on the proposal to save To Lich River, another project that was originally drawn up in October 2016, remains on paper.

It was a project to build Yen Xa Wastewater Treatment Plan in Yen Xa Village, Thanh Tri District, which was expected to treat wastewater from some local rivers, including To Lich River. Under the project, a plant with a treatment capacity of 270,000 cubic metres per day was scheduled to be finished in October this year. However, the area to build the plant, covering 13.8 hectares, is still covered with weeds.

So, there are several things that Hanoi needs to do. First, consulting with experts to design a comprehensive solution before approving the proposal; second, boosting the delayed project to bring back the river from the dead; and finally, learning from experiences in recovering dead rivers as the United Kingdom did with its Thames river or as South Korea did with the Han River.

The Han River, once was so polluted by industry and sewage that dead fish lined its banks. In 1892, a five-year engineering project unclogged and cleansed Seoul’s lifeline, transforming the Han into a source of national pride. Among the solutions to recover the dead river, they built four sewage treatment plants and dredged the river to control water levels and flooding.

Hanoi’s dwellers have been waiting too long to see the return of a clean and beautiful To Lich River.

By Nguyen Hang



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