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Water pollution blights lives of Vietnamese villagers

Rapid urbanization and industrialization are spreading toxic waste into the country's rivers and streams reporter, Hue reporter, Hue

Updated: August 16, 2018 04:51 AM GMT
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Water pollution blights lives of Vietnamese villagers

Nguyen Trung Hieu uses a can to obtain muddy water for daily use from a rice field in Thua Thien Hue province. ( photo)

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It is currently Vietnam's dry season and the rainwater Mary Ho Kan Nuon collected last year is running low.

"We only use rainwater for cooking and drinking because it is the cleanest water and a precious commodity in this area," the mother of four said.

Her family and other villagers walk more than two kilometers through forest to bathe and wash clothes in a pond formed by bombing in the 1970s during the Vietnam War.

Her village, comprised of 46 households, is in A Luoi district of Thua Thien Hue province of central Vietnam.

The Ta Oi ethnic minority woman said in recent years they could not use water from a stream running through the village for daily activities as it is too polluted.

The stream has a foul odor because of liquid waste discharged from a hospital and local people throwing garbage into it.

The Center for Environment and Community Research reported recently that there had been an alarming deterioration in the quality of water in many rivers, streams and lakes across Vietnam. This was damaging people's health.

The center said rivers in and around capital Hanoi had become drains for foul-smelling "black" water.

Toxic waste, pesticides and chemical fertilizers have all been sources of pollution during three decades of rapid urbanization and industrialization.

Luong Thinh stream in Yen Bai province is polluted by mining. ( photo)


Growing concern about diseases

"We are deeply concerned about our health being affected by polluted water," said Mary Tran Thi Ngoc Hien from Nghia Lo town in Yen Bai province.

Hien, 40, said some 30 tonnes of garbage collected from the town is daily dumped on hills near residential areas. Her house is just 500 meters away from a dump site.

The burning of garbage produces columns of black smoke. 

The mother of two said that during the rainy season waste flows into cropland and fish farms. Fish farms also pollute water sources.

Many people, including the young, die from cancers that could be linked to water and other pollution.

Nguyen Trung Hieu, 14, of Thua Thien Hue province, uses a metal container to carry water from a nearby irrigation channel to his house. But time must be allowed for mud and sand to settle.

Some 13,000 residents have to buy water or obtain it from irrigation channels because wells in the area are contaminated.

Hieu said he and his mother, who collects used items for a living, monthly spend 80,000 dong (US$3.5) buying bottled water for drinking and cooking.

Church support

Father Paul Nguyen Ngoc Vinh, a pastor of Phu Xua in central Vietnam, has provided 20 wells for local people.

"There is no running water, so they have to ride bicycles for kilometers carrying clean water," Father Vinh said.

The pastor has arranged for environmental experts to instruct people on how to properly dispose of garbage and toxic substances instead throwing them into rivers.

He said Caritas in Hue Archdiocese distributes water-filtering equipment.

Daughters of Our Lady of the Visitation Sister Anna Nguyen Thi Thu Hong said three congregations run water-filtering systems for thousands of rural and urban dwellers.

Sister Hong said while poor people are given clean water without charge, funds are raised by other people buying 20 liter bottles for 8,000 dong.

The nun said in areas without adequate water supplies some people build concrete tanks to collect rainwater

Nguyen Thi Lai, a dressmaker, said having clean water made the tanks costing at least 7 million dong (US$307) worthwhile.

Sister Hong said people needed to become more aware of the importance of protecting their environment, including sources of water.

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