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Projects aim to keep rivers above water

Update: November, 29/2015 - 19:01
River upkeep: A corner of Thac Ba Dam. The dam has a total area of more than 39,000 ha, including 20,000ha of water surface area and 1,300 small and large islets, creating favourable conditions for the development of cuisine and tourism. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Viet Ton

Water resource organisations work to maintain a stable flow and reduce pollution in the Red-Thai Binh river system as illegal sand miners continue to devastate the riverbed. Ha Nguyen reports.

The Red-Thai Binh rivers system has many irrigation works and four big dams to regulate water resources, but drought, shortage of water and floods are still common occurrences.

The four dams on the Red and Thai Binh rivers account for millions of cubic metres of water flowing through them.

Meanwhile, solutions to maintain a stable flow, reduce pollution and salt-water contamination, as well as illegal sand mining were still inadequate, Bui Nam Sach, head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Institute of Water Resources Planning (IWRP), said at a seminar on the final result of the IMRR project in Ha Noi last week.

The Integrated and Sustainable Water Management of Red-Thai Binh Rivers (RTBR) System in a Changing Climate project is a co-operation between the IWRP and Italy's Milano Technology University (POLIMI).

Funded by the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry, the 1.7-million euro project's goal was to identify strategies for the sustainable management of the RTBR system, possibly improving the current operation.

The strategy is expressed by an operating policy suggested daily, and on the basis of the observed system's condition such as the day-of-the-year and the level in each reservoir.

Project co-ordinator Professor Rodolfo Soncini-Sessa said at the seminar that the IMRR had evaluated the effects of strategic reservoir releases on the downstream system, identified efficient management policies that 'maximise' satisfaction for all the sectors while developing a decision support system known as Red-TwoLe that implements the best compromise policy.

Caught red-handed: Police investigate an illegal sand-dredging ship on the Red River in the northern province of Hung Yen. — VNA/VNS Photo Thong Nhat

Prof. Smcini-Sessa said, however, that the project predicted challenges that emerged later. They included the river bed incision, and sand mining and bifurcation evolution of the Duong and Hong (Red) rivers, and deforestation.

After three years of implementation, which wrapped up this month, the project showed effective results. These included completion of the Red-TwoLe, which can run as the International Water Resources Programme (IWRP) for planning and management, he said.

He said the project proved that the performance of the RTBR system could be improved and climate change would have a significant impact that can be mitigated by adapting the policy with the Red-TwoLe. It has also predicted that the Duong River is going to become the main branch of the Red River Delta, with serious agricultural consequences.

"The average rate of sand mining is 21 million cu.m per year now, if it continues unchanged, the Red River bed incision is expected to proceed further to about 70cm in the next 10 years," Soucini-Sessa said.

The IMRR addressed the design of the daily operations of the four strategic multi-purpose reservoirs of the Son La, Hoa Binh, Thac Ba and Tuyen Quang in an effort to reduce power shortage between 10 per cent and 33 per cent, 70 per cent loss caused by floods, particularly those that threaten the capital and 93 per cent shortage of safe water supply for the delta, the Italian expert said.

After the project the Red-TwoLe is transferred to the Vietnamese Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development, Resources and Environment, and the IWRP for planning and investment, they would be able to regulate water resources on the RTBR system in the future in a sustainable way, he said.

Tranquility: Fishermen go fishing along the Red River. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Quyet

Illegal actions

In fact, illegal sand mining along the Hong, Thai Binh and many other rivers continues at an alarming rate, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at a recent conference on prevention of illegal sand and gravel mining along rivers and seaport.

Tran Van Thom, an official of the Hung Yen Department of Resources and Environment, in the northern province of Hung Yen's Nam Mau Hamlet of Khoai Chau District, where the Red River runs through, said illegal sand mining caused severe pollution and seriously affected local production and the lives of residents.

Every day more than 20 big ships arrive at the Red River's Nam Mau riverside, each transporting between 200cu.m and 300cu.m of sand.

"Such sand-dredging ships have not only caused the quality of water to deteriorate but also damaged the riverbed up to a depth of 15m," Thom said.

Farmer Luong Van Thu said illegal sand mining had damaged and completely sunk Nam Mau Hamlet's alluvial area, which was earlier a very large fertile field of dozens of hectares for growing fruit trees and vegetables.

"Many local houses have cracked and the foundation of our hundred-year-old community houses have sunk and its walls have cracked. We have to raise money from local residents to repair it. In addition, our Cultural House is facing imminent collapse.

"If such illegal sand mining continues, our hamlet will sink under the bed of the Red River," Thu said.

Pouring in: A pumping station works to water crops along the Red River Delta. — VNA/VNS photo The Duyet

Despite repeated proposals to local authorities and relevant agencies, illegal sand mining has become worse as local residents and hamlet cadres are being threatened with dire consequences and even death.

Many young gangsters, driving non-numbered motorcycles around the hamlet, prevent locals and even reporters from reaching the sand mining areas.

Receiving little help from authorities, a hundred locals have gathered on the river bank to protest against these sand poachers despite their threats.

New homes: Residents along the Son La Hydro electricity project were resettled. — VNA/VNS photo The Duyet

To deal with the problem, Deputy Prime Minister Phuc asked sectors, branches and administrations at all levels to join the fight.

Apart from punishment and fines on violators, local people have been encouraged to prevent such violations if they discover any.

"Illegal sand miners should be strictly dealt with and leaders at each level, from local to central governments, should be more responsible. If not, they will also be fined or be dismissed from office," Phuc said.

Water usage in VN

Like other countries, Viet Nam too is faced with polluted water resources and water usage particularly in industrial zones and urban areas, the Department of Water Resources Management said.

Water quality was seriously hampered compared with the allowed standards. For example, pH increased 9 to 11 times and NH3 84 times in 2012, causing many ailments such as, hepatitis, diarrhoea and cancer, the department said.

Ahoy: After being discharged with water, ships can run again on the Red River after drought.-- VNA/VNS Photo Anh Tuan

Water usage for agriculture is now more than 93 billion cu.m, for industry it is 17.3 billion cu.m, and for services it is 2 billion cu.m, while for daily use it is 3.09 billion cu.m, according to the department.

The country will be faced with water shortage because water usage will be double the above-mentioned figures by 2030.

To deal with the problem, the department has pointed to solutions to protect water resources with long and short-term strategies.

These include using safe water resources and improving the water treating network while promoting awareness of communities to join the fight to protect water resources.

There is also a need to adjust and improve regulations and policies to protect underground water, water resources for daily activities and licences for wastewater from industrial zones and hospitals nationwide. — VNS

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