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Viet Nam

Environment and health

Although data on water quality are poor, recorded evidence shows the pollution level is increasing for surface water, groundwater and coastal waters. Although the quality of the upstream river water is generally good, downstream sections of major rivers reveal low water quality. Most of the lakes and canals in urban areas are fast becoming sewage sinks. Groundwater shows pockets of contamination and intrusion of salinity. Rapid urbanization and industrialization in coastal areas, port and marine transport development, expansion in coastal tourism, and an increase in the number of oil spills contribute to the deterioration of coastal water quality.

The National Monitoring Network (NMN) covers four rivers running through the main urban areas the: Red (Hanoi), Cam (Haiphong), Huong (Hue) and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Other rivers are being monitored in the various regions. Trends indicate that the levels of two primary pollution indicators, Ammonia-nitrogen (NH4-N) and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), vary considerably and exceed national water quality class A standards. The problems are worse during the dry season, when river flows are reduced. Industrial and other pollution adds to the human waste from the households areas. Around 70 industrial parks have been developed, with more than 1 000 hospitals nationwide some million m3 of untreated wastewater is discharged from these sources per day.

According to MONRE, about 4 000 enterprises discharge wastewater, of which 439 enterprises are the most serious and have been reallocated or closed or will have to adapt cleaner technologies and treatment of their wastewater. Rivers in urban areas, especially major cities, are seriously polluted by untreated industrial wastewater. Surveys conducted by the Institute of Tropical Techniques and Environmental Protection show that the content of contaminants in rivers in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong, Hai Duong, Bac Giang, Hue, Da Nang, Quang Nam and Dong Nai, are much higher than permissible levels.

Untreated industrial wastewater discharging into rivers is the main source of pollution. According to the institute, industrial parks (IPs) and export processing zones (EPZs) in the Southern Key Economic Zone discharge over 137 000 m3 of wastewater containing nearly 93 tonnes of waste into the Dong Nai, Thi Vai and Saigon rivers each day. Meanwhile, 2 out of 12 IPs and EPZs in Ho Chi Minh City, 3 out of 17 in Dong Nai, 2 out of 13 in Binh Duong, and none of the IPs and EPZs in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province (South East Region) have wastewater treatment facilities. According to environmentalists, the Southern Key Economic Zone needed US$380 million in 2005 and US$867 million in 2010 to deal with environmental pollution.

Within cities, lakes, streams, and canals increasingly serve as sinks for municipal and industrial wastes. Most of the lakes in Hanoi are seriously polluted with high BOD levels. Similarly, four small rivers in Hanoi and five canals in Ho Chi Minh City have levels of dissolved oxygen (DO) as low as 0-2 mg/litre, and BOD levels as high as 50-200 mg/litre.

Groundwater is emerging as an important source of water for municipal, industrial, and agricultural use. While the quality of groundwater remains good, there are some pockets of contamination. There is evidence of pollution from poorly maintained septic tanks, garbage dumping, and industrial effluents and overexploitation in parts of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong river delta.

Although there have been improvements in the provision of safe water to urban and rural populations, water-borne diseases are still a major problem. Dysentery and diarrhoea are widespread. In four years, recently, there were 6 million cases requiring treatment for water-borne diseases, which incurred a cost of US$27 million for treatment of cholera, typhoid, dysentery and malaria.

The cost of treating polluted water varies considerably depending on the quality of the raw water, which either comes from rivers, reservoirs or groundwater. However, typical treatment costs vary from US$1/m3 to US$1.5/m3. The tariffs consumers pay depend on the use of the water. Typically, municipal tariffs vary from US$1.2/m3 to US$1.7/m3. Factories and other business users may pay up to US$5.6/m3.

In early September 2001, a major oil spill occurred off the coast of Ba Ria-Vung Tau province (South East Region) after a collision between a Vietnamese tanker and a Taiwanese ship. As a result, some 900 m3 of DO oil poured into the Ba Ria-Vung Tau coastal area, causing extensive environmental damage at nearby tourist beaches, shrimp farms and mangrove forests. Total financial losses caused by the disaster were an estimated US$17 million and costs for cleaning up polluted waters and beaches reached US$4 million.

Flooding is an annual event in northern Viet Nam and the cause of enormous losses. With as much as 80 percent of the population living on the coastal plains and deltas, costs incurred from floods and typhoons are colossal. For the seven years from 1995 to 2002 the costs were US$1 250 million. Also the loss of lives, homesteads and general suffering of the people are immense. During 1995-2002 the human losses from typhoons and floods totalled 3 342 persons. In a study undertaken by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), it was estimated that the average annual losses in the Red river delta and along the central coast could be substantially more than US$130 million. In a study undertaken by the Asian Development Bank, it was found that the average annual damage from flooding for the area protected by the dyke around Hanoi alone amounted to well over US$50 million per year.

The number of adults with HIV/AIDS was 0.5 percent of the total population. In 2005 the estimated number of people needing antiretroviral therapy (0-49 years) was 25 000 people (WHO/UNAIDS, 2005).


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