More than VND700 billion (USD34 million) would be needed to protect the Dong Nai River that is suffering extreme levels of pollution, officials estimated at a meeting held in HCM City last Saturday.
|A stretch of the Dong Nai River in HCM City. Waste water from factories, industrial parks and guild villages has seriously polluted the southern river. (Photo: VNS)|
However, participants failed to reach a consensus on how the river could be saved, with many saying the plans devised were impractical and unfeasible.
At the meeting that set a budget estimate to improve the river\’s water quality, which runs through 11 southern provinces as well as HCM City, participants agreed that pollution in the river, largely caused by industrial and urban waste generated by rapid economic development, had reached extreme levels, and called for drastic measures over the next five years, participants agreed.
Twenty-four projects would be implemented by 2015 with investment from the State budget, foreign loans with preferential interest rates, local administration budgets and contributions from enterprises and individuals.
The projects would carry out a wide range of activities from reviewing and evaluating the impact of irrigation constructions to dealing with soil contamination in waste dumping areas along the river. Based on the findings from these activities, measures to protect the river would be worked out, officials said.
State budget funds would be used only for building central waste treatment systems in urban residential areas. Production establishments would have to find financial sources themselves to invest in their wastewater treatment facilities.
It is almost impossible to clean up the river basin according to the evaluation of the Environmental Technology Centre (ENTEC) and the Viet Nam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment (VACNE).
The river has been contaminated with waste water mostly from industrial parks (IPs) and guild villages.
The river basin covers an area of 37,400sq.km with a population of 18.8 million.
Under a plan to protect the river\’s basin environment to 2020 approved by the Prime Minister, 80 per cent of IPs and export processing zones and 40 per cent of urban areas will have central wastewater treatment systems.
According to ENTEC and VACNE estimates for the 2015-20 period, pollution caused by dumping of waste (water, gas and solid waste) will go up by 1.04 to 2.61 times. HCM City and the two most industrialised provinces of Dong Nai and Binh Duong would be the biggest culprits in dumping waste in the river.
The plans proposed at the Saturday meeting failed to get the agreement of all participants, many of whom said the planning, done mainly by ENTEC, was neither focused nor feasible.
They said two key factors for efforts to protect the river\’s environment to be effective – investment and human sources – were not properly discussed.
Most leaders and officials in affected cities and provinces had not been paying enough attention to environmental protection issue, the Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) quoted participants as saying.
They said the spending of 1 per cent of the annual local budget for environmental protection had not been implemented correctly by many localities.
In localities where the allocation was being used, it proved to be hugely inadequate compared to the demand for improving the waste treatment facilities including infrastructure and equipment.
A recent proposal made by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to double the environmental protection allocation to 2 per cent of the annual budget outlay for localities had not received the Government\’s approval, the complainants noted.
They also stressed the lack of human resources to take charge of and supervise environmental protection efforts. The figure of one environmentalist per 1 million citizens was mentioned at the meeting.
Furthermore, existing environmental specialists were not sufficiently equipped to tackle the magnitude of the task at hand, they said.
A Dong Nai representative said the province spent more than VND100 billion ($4.76 million) every year on environmental protection. He conceded however, that this had not proved effective in improving waste treatment in the province.
Only 19 out of 31 IPs had invested in building central wastewater treatment systems, just one out of 10 waste dumping areas had treatment systems that met the standard, and just 61 per cent of hazardous waste generated in the province was treated, he said.
The official was also quoted by Nguoi Lao Dong (The Labourer) newspaper as saying that the target of having 100 per cent of the waste treated in Dong Nai, and even in other cities and provinces, in 10 years would not be achieved if the plans were not implemented effectively.
He also expressed his doubt over the feasibility of raising VND700 billion ($34 million) and suggested that a more modest plan be adopted that would focus on a number of key projects that could be implemented in specific localities instead of spreading the investment to all areas.
Participants requested the MoNRE to thoroughly review the current situation and estimation of the river\’s capacity to receive pollutants in its upstream and downstream areas, and use this as a basis for granting permission to production establishments.
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