Water Pollution in Vietnam’s Rivers and Canals

Jordan Nguyen

07 April 2020

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Vietnam with a population of around 96 million people, having it’s two most populated cities, Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City, each with a population of 8 million+ population, it’s no surprise that the country has water problems. Vietnam, still considered a third world country, struggles to keep its ground water, rivers, and canals clean. Every year, the Vietnam government invests 56 million USD every year to water supply and sanitation. Although this allows 98% of the population in Vietnam to have “improved” water and 78% of the population to have “improved” sanitation, the water pollution in cities such as Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City, causes major problems to the ecosystem and to sustaining clean water. I happened to be in Vietnam, while my colleagues and I were investing time into preventing water pollution. So in order to get first hand experience, I went to the Rach Ong La River and the Sai Gon River in Ho Chi Minh City, to see how dilute these two rivers were. 


I’m pointing at the trash that is covering the river banks of Rach Ong La River


The first river I went to was the Rach Ong La river, which runs across District 7 in Ho Chi Minh City. When I arrived at the river, I was across to all the wooden homes that laid on top of the river. In front of me was the banks of the river, where all I could see was trash and waste. The river current was traveling west, and it would pick up trash from the river banks, dragging it all the way into the bigger connecting rivers such as the Sai Gon River and the Soai Rap River. A major cause to the pollution and waste at the river was all the homes and little food shops set up right next to the river. Locals who belonged to those homes and shops would throw trash over into the river banks, worsening the water pollution. 


Another picture of the river banks in Rach Ong La River.


Sai Gon River was the second river I had visited which runs through Ho Chi Minh’s District 4 and District 7 does not show as much signs of waste on the river banks, but the water is just as diluted as the Rach Ong La river. Big boats with huge steam engines run through the river, out to the East Vietnam sea, also causing air pollution. The Sai Gon river is polluted with wastewater and rainwater from its sewers and drainage systems. Yet I also noticed the vast amount of houses that bordered the river. Most likely these homes’ sewage systems and waste are dumped directly into the river. 


       Jordan Nguyen (me), in front of the Sai Gon River bordering between District 4 and 7.  Although it is not nearly as contaminated as the Rach Ong La River, it is still polluted.


The pollution in Vietnam’s rivers and canals are getting worse. The Saigon Water Corporation also known as SAWACO has reported that the pollution has been getting worse, while the solutions are too slow. SAWACO also reports that if the pollution of Vietnam’s rivers get any worse, the population could face serious water supply problems. Vietnam’s canals have also been facing widespread water pollution. Nearly 2,000 of Ho Chi Minh’s canals have been seriously polluted. Many locals report that the canals give off a horrible smell and also have been poisoning people’s health. Ha Noi suffers the highest amount of water pollution. Sewage from hospitals and factories are constantly being poured into the To Lich, Kim Nguu, Set, Lu, and Nhue rivers. Ha Noi’s rivers are surrounded by hundreds of households leading to even more waste being disposed into its rivers. 

Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh city have both started to take action into cleaning the polluted rivers, as many people have been complaining about the smell and pollution of well water. In Hanoi, authorities began a project in the highly polluted Lich River. They used Japenese nanotechnology to reduce the stench and decompose waste. In three days the stench had gone done, and the waste started to decompose in around two months. The Saigon Water Corporation (SAWACO) has also taken steps to reduce water pollution. They have begun to equip themselves with specialized filtering machines in order to make sure that rivers stay as clean as they can. The HCMC Department of Natural resources and environment also has closed 24 waist transit stations for failing to meet certain criteria. The HCMC Department also had opened up and upgraded 13 waste transit stations. 

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