There have been many people accepting polluted environments in exchange for modernizing and industrializing their countries. Once the countries are rich, they will use the money to refresh the contaminated environment. For some recent decades, many poor countries are sacrificing the environment for the goal of becoming developed countries. And Vietnam, with the hope of becoming an economic dragon of Asia, has been acting in this way in developing the economy.
As a result, Vietnam is now facing many environmental problems, especially in terms of river pollution.
The number of water resources of Vietnam for domestic using, cultivating, and manufacturing is about two hundred and fifty-five billion cubic meters annually. However, it is estimated that because of inadequate physical infrastructure and lack of financial capacity, the utilization of water is only fifty-three billion cubic meters per year .
This figure has been becoming smaller and smaller because the untreated wastewater poured directly into rivers from factories, hospitals and households make the rivers seriously contaminated. If there is no solution to break this situation, we will no longer have clean water for domestic using, cultivating, and manufacturing.
With the economy development, the Vietnamese GDP has been increasing at about eight to nine percent each year lately, the second-highest increasing rate in the world, and many people are optimistic about this.
However, this is a false achievement because we do not take the cost of rehabilitating the polluted environment into account. There is not any statistic about the cost of cleaning the river pollution on a national scale. But, it must be, in reality, a huge number. The Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe canal in Ho Chi Minh City, for instance, is just eighty-sixed hundred meters in length but it costs someone hundred sixteen million and six hundred thousand dollars for being refreshed its polluted water .
The Tan Hiep water-processing plant in Ho Chi Minh City is in probability to be stopped operating because the water supplied from the Sai Gon River is being severely polluted . This means that the city’s people are facing the danger of a lack of freshwater. Besides, there are intangible damages due to river pollution. The health of the people is negatively influenced by the polluted water source. The contaminated river water can cause aquatic living things sick or dead. They are also disease-transmitting factors for people. If people eat them, they can be sick or more seriously, be killed.
The life of many river-based people is becoming worse. Furthermore, river tourism is heavily damaged. Generally, polluted river water badly affects many aspects of the economy and society. Apparently, these damages are too huge to be estimated and many destroy from the polluted river environments are never recovered.
The high density of population and industrial factories is the main cause of river contamination. The areas relating to the Cau, Nhue-Day, and Dong Nai river systems have roughly fifteen thousand industrial factories, eleven hundred craft villages, thirty hundred medical clinics, and hospitals .
Most of these organizations have sent untreated wastewater directly into the river. The common chemicals found in the rivers are BOD, COD, TSS, NH3, H2S, Coliform, Zinc, Lead, Copper, Tin, and Iron. These chemicals are always in the content surpassing the limit values of the Industrial Wastewater Discharge Standards 5945-2005 (TCVN 5945-2005) . Besides, because of a lack of environmental protection awareness, many citizens litter wastes into the drainage systems and rivers. Of the polluted rivers, the Thi Vai is considered to be the most severe.
It receives roughly twenty thousand cubic meters of wastewater each day from such industrial zones as Nhon Trach, My Xuan, Go Dau, Phu My, Cai Mep. It is becoming a giant toxic water source.
These gases make living things in the river dead. The low content of DO (Dissolved Oxygen) is caused by the high amount of COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) and BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) in the river. COD and BOD are the oxygen necessary for chemically and biologically disintegrating organic substances. However, if COD and BOD are too high in the content, they reduce the DO in the water, and then, anaerobic bacteria are more active . This makes the aquatic living things dead or grows abnormally.
To solve the problem of river pollution in Vietnam is a very complicated issue. It relates to financial capacity, human resources, environment law frames, technology, a life of people, economic and manufacturing organizations… However, if the Vietnamese government has a high resolution and accesses appropriate methods, then the problem can be solved. The process of refreshing the river environment should be divided into two phases. In the short term, the government must be able to control the wastewater sources from the wastewater contributors. Fining water pollution-causing organizations has been a popular action up to now. However, reality shows that this is not an effective solution.
They accept the fine because it is much cheaper than building a standard wastewater-treating system. So, the government must have a stricter punishment. If any polluted wastewater-contributing organization does not invest an adequate wastewater-treating system, it should be forced to stop operating. In the long term, the government must have macro orientations. The government should hire experienced foreign environment experts to cooperate with Vietnamese river environment specialists to observe and figure out river water-improving plans. Educating environment protection for the citizens has to be applied from kindergartens.
If this comes true, our later generations will be environment protectors; there will be no longer anyone littering garbage into the rivers.
Through more than two decades of Doi Moi Policy (Innovation), the Vietnamese economy has increased, however, our polluted environment in general and contaminated rivers, in particular, are apparently the high price we are paying for it. This teaches us a lesson that economic development has to accompany protecting the environment, especially the river water resource because without water there is not any life.
Post Script When this essay was being written, there was the Summit of Asian Mega Cities held in Osaka, Japan (also AMS). One of the biggest concerns at the summit was about the environment. Many delegates were in the opinion that economic development had to parallel to environment protection. Mr. Nguyen Van Phuoc, vice director of the Department of Ho Chi Minh City Natural Resources and Environment reported the seriously polluted air and river environment in Vietnamese cities and called for helps from other cities (The Tuoi Tre Newspaper, 26-October- 2007).
This can serve as a solid foundation for the argument of the essay.
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