Dong Nai River on verge of death

The Dong Nai River, which provides water for countless households in the southern region, has become extremely polluted in recent years. Unregulated dumping of household and industrial wastewater into the river is the main cause for the contamination.

Tan Van, a branch of the Dong Nai River, is extremely polluted (Photo: SGGP)

Sai Gon Giai Phong recently carried out an inspection at areas where wastewater is poured into the river such as Suoi Cai Stream, a confluence of the Nhum Stream in Binh Duong Province and Xuan Truong Stream in Ho Chi Minh City’s Thu Duc District. The water here was found to be seriously polluted.

Tran Cong Tuan, a resident in Thu Duc District who lives near the Suoi Cai Stream, said that recently the water had given off a foul smell.

Ten years ago, the river sometimes changed to a muddy color, but now it turns a variety of shades including red, violet and green, he said.

Traveling along the river’s upper reaches, reporters said they had difficulty breathing because of the foul stench of feces and garbage, which surrounded the water and floated in it.

Several industrial zones (IZs) and export processing zones (EPZs) as well as pig-breeding farms that lack treatment systems, are responsible for the river’s pollution.

The water is black at a branch of the river where Tham Luong, Ben Cat, Vam Thuat and Nuoc Len canals travel through several inner districts of HCMC and empty into the Sai Gon River.

Around Thi Tinh, a branch of the Sai Gon River, the water is yellow and gives off a terrible smell.

Responsibility shirked

Since 2005, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has held many meetings with12 provincial leaders to find solutions to save the river, but decisive action remains to be seen.

Deputy Minister Tran Hong Ha said that development projects combined with a lack of environmental protection has led to the pollution of the river.

The Dong Nai River system receives wastewater from the cities and provinces of HCM City, Dong Nai, Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Lam Dong, Dac Lac, Dac Nong, Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan, Tay Ninh and Long An.

Since the river runs through so many areas, no one has stepped up to take responsibility, said Mr Ha.

According to the ministry’s statistics, the river also receives wastewater from around 70 IZs and EPZs.

Of these, 15 are located in HCMC, 16 each are in the neighboring provinces of Dong Nai and Binh Duong, three each are in Long An and Binh Phuoc provinces, and one is in Tay Ninh.

The river receives 1.73 million cubic meters daily of household wastewater and 1.54 million cubic meters of industrial wastewater.

The above statistics do not include wastewater from tens of thousands of industrial production units outside the IZs.

According to research carried out by the ministry, the river’s lower area is the most polluted.

At some places like Phu Cuong, Binh Phuoc, and Phu An in HCM City, microorganism levels are 168 times higher than the permitted level.

In particular, a 10-kilometer section of brown-black water in the Thi Vai River valley is completely “dead.” The dissolved oxygen concentration (DO) is below 0.5mg/liter, making it unable to support any aquatic life.

Environmental experts say authorities must act quickly to save the river and the water it provides for the region’s citizens.

By staff writers – Translated by Hai Mien

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