A mother showers her children near the Red River in Hà Nội. — VNS Photo Nguyễn Việt Thanh
HÀ NỘI — Water pollution has been identified as the greatest threat that could cost Việt Nam up to 3.5 per cent of GDP annually by 2035, an independent study by the World Bank has warned.
The study, titled “Towards a Safe, Clean and Resilient Water System” was launched in Hà Nội on Thursday.
It showed that urban development, discharge of untreated industrial wastewater, and use of agricultural fertilisers and pesticides are placing unrelenting stresses on the water bodies.
According to data from the Ministry of Construction, only 46 per cent of urban households have connections to the drainage system and 12.5 per cent of domestic wastewater is being treated, not to mention untreated wastewater from industrial facilities outside industrial zones. This compromises water quality and related ecosystems, said the report.
Speaking at the launching ceremony, co-hosted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the World Bank in Việt Nam, Jennifer Sara, Senior Director of the World Bank’s Water Global Practice, said the report sent a clear message that sustained economic growth in Việt Nam would not be possible without strong action to safeguard water resources.
“If good decisions are made now, water systems can be strengthened to withstand shocks such as climate change and ensure current and future generations reap the benefits of water,“ she said, adding the World Bank’s Water team was ready to work with the Government of Việt Nam to sustain resources, deliver services and build resilience.
The study recommends improvements in governance, management and financing of water resources, including strengthening of institutions for development and enforcement of regulations.
It also advocates for an integrated approach of water management at the basin level and creating incentives to pollute less and use water more efficiently. Furthermore, disaster response and resilience against escalating floods, riverine and coastal erosion, sea level rise, and land subsidence need to be improved.
In addition, improving the quality of public spending and encouraging private finance is imperative to broaden the funding sources for improvements in water management.
The study suggests strengthening and enforcing regulations to create incentives to improve water quality along with use of cost-effective solutions to control pollution. The study also sheds light on the low productivity of water use, particularly in the agriculture and aquaculture sectors which account for 92 per cent of the Việt Nam’s water usage.
“There are opportunities to use water more productively such as switching to crops and irrigation systems that give ‘more income per drop’ while saving water, reducing water usage through the use of innovative technology, and having appropriate tariff mechanisms to create incentives for efficient and productive use of water,” it said.
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Trần Hồng Hà stressed the challenges that Việt Nam was facing in water management.
He said that pressures from population growth, economic growth and increasing water demand had put water resources at risk of depletion.
“These pressures will result in unsustainable development unless water resources are managed in a uniform and co-ordinated way, and shared and used reasonably and effectively,” he said.
“It is time for us to not be mistaken that we are rich in water resources, but frankly speaking, Việt Nam is a poor country on water but wasting water resources,” said the minister.
Ousmane Dione, World Bank Country Director for Việt Nam, said Việt Nam’s development of its abundant water resources was key to driving the country’s rapid growth but new challenges had also emerged.
“The challenges today are those of a maturing economy in a complex context of climate change,” he said.
“The challenges of securing gains, improving efficiency and productivity, consolidating institutions, improving human capital, upgrading the country’s infrastructure base, and adapting to the changing mother nature.”
“Those challenges are very real in the water sector and call for a renewed model of water resource management to adapt Việt Nam’s ambitions to its economic prospects. This model must look ‘toward a safe, clean and resilient water system’ to support the country’s aspirations to become a high-income economy,” he stressed
He warned that unless decisive steps were taken, water, which had been a driving force behind Việt Nam’s rapid growth, development would slow down.
“Early actions will ensure that water remains a key ingredient for Việt Nam’s growing prosperity,” he said.
Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Lê Công Thành said the ministry would study carefully and scientifically the World Bank report and would set up a detailed action plan to realise its proposals to strengthen water resources management in the future. — VNS