More solutions needed to revive rivers: Expert

March 13, 2021 - 08:01
Đào Trọng Tứ, head co-ordinator of the Việt Nam River Network (VRN), speaks to the Vietnam News Agency about finding solutions to revive rivers


A section of Tô Lịch River in Hà Nội. — VNA/VNS Photo

Đào Trọng Tứ, head co-ordinator of the Việt Nam River Network (VRN), speaks to the Vietnam News Agency about finding solutions to revive rivers on the occasion of the International Day of Action for Rivers (March 14)

How can you assess the current pollution situation of rivers in inner Hà Nội?

According to the Hà Nội Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the capital city discharges about 350,000-400,000cu.m of domestic wastewater and more than 1,000cu.m each day. The majority is discharged directly into lakes, rivers and streams.

Hà Nội has implemented a number of measures to reduce pollution and clean rivers and lakes in the inner city.

However, the solutions that have been implemented so far have not been effective. The pollution situation is getting worse, affecting the landscape, beauty of the capital and the public's health.

I think the idea to recover some rivers in Hà Nội that was proposed a few years ago is not feasible. It will greatly affect the landscape and environment of the city.

Rivers are important in supporting the development and wellbeing of humanity. Protecting the health and vitality of rivers is to preserve life, the development of the nation and people.

Many countries around the world have succeeded in restoring rivers that have been seriously polluted by industrialisation and urbanisation. Can you talk about the models Việt Nam can successfully apply?

One of the successful models in Asian countries is Japan. In the 1960s and 1970s, garbage was found on the surface of rivers in Tokyo even though signs prohibiting dumping was placed next to them.

Like Việt Nam, the process of industrialisation and urbanisation has turned rivers into roads. Over the years, the canals have become increasingly polluted by industrial and domestic wastewater and rubbish.

To have a clean environment, Japan has implemented comprehensive measures, forming a legal system, building an advanced waste and wastewater management and co-ordination system.

Japan built the most advanced types of toilet worldwide, making rivers less polluted.

In 1993, the Basic Environment Law was passed to protect the rivers' headwater. Industries were forced to treat and filter wastewater. At the same time, heavy penalties were also given for violations. This also promoted the development of water treatment technologies. Meanwhile, households and factories were aware that controlling pollution at the sources was the best way to clean water.

Việt Nam also has experience restoring inner-city rivers, especially the reviving of the Nhiêu Lộc-Thị Nghè Canal.

More than 20 years ago, Nhiêu Lộc-Thị Nghè River Canal was considered the most polluted canal in HCM City with black water, full of trash and stinking.

Now the canal water is green again.

About 1.2 million people living along the canal, most of them poor, have a centralised wastewater collection system. The sanitation is improved and the risk of flooding is also reduced.

In addition, another project to improve the Tân Hóa - Lò Gốm canal has been basically completed, achieving multiple goals of improving the living conditions of more than 1 million people living along the canal which is severely polluted and frequently flooded.

Recently, a lot of research and solutions to improve the inner city's rivers have made positive changes in drainage and landscape improvement. What comprehensive, specific and drastic measures does Hà Nội need to preserve and protect rivers?

To solve the problem of pollution and restore rivers, it requires great determination of the capital government as well as the recognition of the enormous importance of rivers for the sustainable development of Hà Nội and the country.

We can invest in roads and skyscrapers. We also have to revive rivers, the life and the soul of the capital.

Therefore, the proposed solutions should be integrated and comprehensive to solve water pollution and replenish water sources to revive rivers, creating a green, clean and beautiful landscape for Hà Nội.

The solutions must consider the movement of water flow, nature and impacts of other river systems to the Đà, Red and Đuống rivers of Hà Nội.

It is necessary to consider the needs and desires of the people and they must be integrated in the planning of other sectors such as water drainage, flood drainage system, water supply for agriculture and domestic use, spatial development, environment protection, landscape, history, geography, culture and spirituality.

The theme of International Day of Action for Rivers 2021 is 'Rights of Rivers', meaning that rivers have the rights to live as people and that is also a guarantee for man. — VNS


Efforts made to secure equitable, sustainable management of rivers

In the face of growing pressure on water resources in recent years, authorities in Việt Nam, including the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE), have been striving to ensure the equitable and sustainable management of rivers nationwide.

At the First International Meeting of People Affected by Dams, in Curitiba city, Brazil, in March 1997, representatives from 20 countries agreed that the International Day of Action for Rivers would fall on March 14 - Brazil’s Day of Action against Large Dams.

The aim of the day is to raise voices in union against destructive water development projects, reclaim the health of rivers and watersheds, and demand the equitable and sustainable management of waterways.

Việt Nam is home to 108 river basins and about 3,450 rivers and streams that are 10km or more in length. The average amount of surface water stands at about 830-840 billion cu.m, 63 per cent of which hails from other countries while only 310-320 billion cu.m is generated in Việt Nam.

Economic development and rapid urbanisation have led to an increase in wastewater discharged from industrial and agricultural activities. Improperly treated wastewater has also put pressure on both the quantity and quality of water resources, including rivers and streams.

Many major rivers have been suffering from different levels of pollution, which gets worse in the dry season when water flows naturally fall.

Facing this fact, river basin committees in Việt Nam have conducted annual assessments of rivers and discussed solutions to protect the environment, but co-ordination among localities in river basins remains modest.

To ensure water resources security, the MoNRE has built and overhauled rules guiding the enforcement of the Law on Water Resources and the Law on Environmental Protection.

It has also conducted water resources planning and set up river basin organisations to co-ordinate and monitor activities related to water resources.

Inter-reservoir operating procedures for certain river basins, proposed by the ministry, were issued by the Prime Minister, providing an important legal basis for regulating the water resources of major reservoirs to ensure interests between power generation, water supply for agriculture, and household use in downstream areas. — VNS