HCM City struggles to find funds to halt canal pollution
VietNamNet Bridge – Canals in HCM City, including those under restoration and dredging, could become polluted again if no drastic measures are taken to cope with the critical issue, heard a conference held last week in HCM City.
Speaking at a conference on water pollution in canals, Nguyen Thanh Loi, deputy editor-in-chief of Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper, said HCM City had an extensive system of canals that help release rainwater and supply freshwater for agricultural and industrial sectors. The canals also were used for waterway transport.
However, many of the canals were seriously polluted as households living along them discharged untreated wastewater into canals, and threw away materials and items.
Cao Tung Son, deputy head of the Environmental Protection Division under the city's Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the pollution in some canals under restoration and dredging, such as Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe, Tan Hoa – Lo Gom, Tham Luong – Vam Thuat, Tau Hu – Ben Nghe, Doi – Te, had improved since 2010.
But this year it became worse, Son added.
The One Member Ltd Company in charge of collecting rubbish in Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe canal said the company was collecting an increasing amount of rubbish on the canal, between four and five tonnes of rubbish every day.
Worse till, water hyacinth has recently developed quickly on the canal, hindering the work.
Dr Nguyen Thi Thanh Phuong, of the Institute of Environment and Natural Resources, said inspection results in 2013 of the General Department of Environment showed that the Sai Gon River and canals were polluted mainly due to discharge of untreated household and industrial wastewater.
In addition, wastewater flowing from the upper stream of Dong Nai and Binh Duong provinces to the Sai Gon River and Dong Nai River worsens water pollution in the city.
Wastewater from household restrooms along the canal also added to the pollution.
The lack of environmental awareness of local residents contributed to the critical issue, as many of them threw rubbish into the canals every day.
Rapid urban development also contributed significantly to water pollution as well as the poor management of governing agencies, Phuong said.
Son said a huge amount of investment was needed to solve the issue effectively.
However, the city has allocated only 1 per cent of the total city budget for the work, which is not even enough to treat household waste.
Thus, most canals in the city have not received any investment from the city to reduce pollution, except for Tau Hu – Ben Nghe, Doi – Te and Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe canals.
Luu Van Tan, head of the Wastewater Management Department under the HCM City Anti-Flooding Programme Operation Centre, said the city needed to call for investment from the private sector because the budget could only meet 5 per cent of total costs for reducing water pollution in canals.
Tan said the centre was working to seek interested businesses but few businesses wanted to invest in environmental projects because of unclear policies.
He said the government should develop a clear framework for businesses to invest in the field.
In addition, long and complicated administrative procedures, which usually take up to several years, also frustrated investors and slowed down progress of projects.
Dr Nguyen Thi Thanh Phuong of the Institute of Environment and Natural Resources said the city needed to work with residential communities to raise awareness in protecting canals.
The city needed to organise educational campaigns to not throw rubbish and untreated water into canals, she said.
Any individual and organisation that violates the regulations must be strictly punished, she added.
She said the city in the near future should build a system to collect household wastewater and set up an environmental inspection system to determine the sources of discharged waste and wastewater.
The city also needs to improve its management capacity in resolving the problem, according to Phuong.
Organised by the Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper, and the departments of Science and Technology and Environment and Natural Resources, the conference aimed to identify measures to reduce water pollution in canals and rivers in HCM City.