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Pollution threatens Gulf of Tonkin

Update: January, 16/2012 - 10:13

 

International tourists travel by boat along the Mekong River to visit gardens in the southern province of Vinh Long. Joint efforts are needed to tackle pollution along cross-border rivers. — VNA/VNS Photo Anh Tuan
HA NOI — Viet Nam's coastal region of West Bac Bo (Tonkin) Gulf, adjacent to China and other Asian countries, suffers from transboundary environmental pollution and joint efforts are being urged to tackle this problem.

Researcher Luu Van Dieu, from the Institute of Marine Environment and Resources, said cross-border rivers including the Red, Ma and Ca rivers were major sources of pollutants poured into the gulf.

According to a country report by United Nations Environment Programme, Viet Nam's marine pollution issue dates back to 2004. Every year since then, the Red River alone brings to the gulf 232,000 tonnes of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), 353,000 tonnes of chemical oxygen demand (COD), 31,000 tonnes of nitrogen, over 7,000 tonnes of phosphate, over 4,000 tonnes of heavy metals, 210 tonnes of fertiliser and about 13,000 tonnes of oil.

BOD and COD are two different ways of measuring how much oxygen will be depleted from the water. In both cases the oxygen-consuming substances are mainly of organic origin.

Waste from the river made up 95 per cent of the total pollutants discharged from this part of territory where the river runs through, the report said.

Dieu said that the stream flowing into the gulf led the transboundary pollution not just in the countries adjacent to the gulf and offshore area. There was also evidence of oil spills, marine waste and pollutants.

It is reported that in the last 25 years, about 140 oil spills occurred in the western region of the gulf. In late January and early February of 2007, oil spills were seen in coastal areas of the central provinces Ha Tinh and Quang Binh before spreading to the south. The accumulative collected oil was more than 1,700 tonnes.

"Up to 77 per cent of oil spills in Viet Nam's waters have yet to be dealt with, or properly compensated," Dieu said, adding that it was due to poor management and insufficient legal framework.

Raised awareness and capacity to manage transboundary pollution were necessary, he said.

Domestic and international co-operation among countries and organisations could help minimise the impact of transboundary pollution, he emphasised.

Dr Dinh Van Huy from the institute also said that so far, there were few insightful studies completed on this issue.

Investing in observation and assessing the current situation were necessary first steps, he said, adding that the institute submitted a proposal for requesting funding further research.

More observation stations should be set up along coastal lines and along the upper parts of rivers, facilitating a proper data base for assessment of the current situation and forecast changes in the coastal areas. — VNS

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