HCMC combating pollution in canals

After 8 months implementing Instruction No.19-CT/TU by the Standing Committee of the Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Party Committee on erasing pollution hot spots in the city, several formerly polluted canals have transformed into green areas for community activities. However, there still exist certain seriously contaminated canals due to residents’ low level of awareness as well as ineffective solutions of the local authorities.

A campaign to clean waste in canals in District 12 of HCMC. Photo by Viet Dung

A campaign to clean waste in canals in District 12 of HCMC. Photo by Viet Dung

One remarkable project to lessen pollution is for the canals of Tham Luong – Ben Cat – Nuoc Len. It has been launched since 2012 with the total finance of VND27,000 billion (approx. $1.165 billion), to be effective for the canal length of more than 20 kilometers through 5 districts in HCMC. After 5 years, this project is still under construction, adding more solid waste to the already full-of-rubbish canals. The foul smell has severely bothered thousands of households in these areas.

Various kinds of garbage have been seen along as well as on Tham Luong Canal from Tan Ky – Tan Quy Bridge to Binh Hung Hoa Waste Treatment Plant, located in Binh Tan District, including industrial wastewater, unused materials, animal droppings, and even dangerous chemicals

Similarly, on the part of Vam Thuat River located in Thoi An Ward of District 12, garbage is everywhere, stopping the water flow. Local people here are now suffered the foul smell all day.

Although the local authorities have already planted many trees to purify the air, cleaned certain streets from waste, and built barriers to prevent illegal waste dumping into the canal, the situation is not at all better.

As said by Mr. Ha, who lives next to the canal, the local authorities feels truly helpless facing such repetitive wrong doings. He added that they have fined law breakers, periodically checked the locations, and tried to raise people’s awareness of pollution, yet nothing seems to change as the canal could be full of garbage after only one night.

Ms. Tran Thi Kim Thanh even shared that visitors coming here have to wear a face mask because of the grave effects of air pollution on health. She reported that in her neighborhood, in this July, 10 people were taken to hospital due to dengue fever, as the quantity of mosquitoes here is exceptionally dense.

Sharing the same situation, Tan Tru Canal, located in Tan Binh District, welcomes visitors with its characteristically black water and stinking smell, along with thousands of mosquitoes and flies.

Ms. Huynh Thi Dung, a resident near this canal, said that the canal is so congested that whenever there is rain, the flooding level is unbearable, unlike the past when Tan Tru Canal was still green and environmentally friendly. She complained that it was this pollution that makes people here suffer from frequent skin and lung diseases.

Even though the local authorities have encouraged people not to dump their garbage onto the canal and launched regular campaigns to clean up the canal banks or to dredge the bed, only after a short time, all kinds of waste appear here again.

Mr. Le Huu Tuan, Vice Chairman of the People’s Committee of Ward 4 in Tan Binh District said that in 2018, his organization fined people nearly VND100 million ($4,310) for their illegal waste dumping. In the first 6 months of this year, it also fined 7 serious cases. Nevertheless, the action of throwing garbage onto the A41 Canal in the ward cannot be deterred.

According to Mr. Le Minh Hieu, Vice Chairman of the People’s Committee of Binh Hung Hoa Ward in Binh Tan District, the fact that people purposely dump their waste at midnight makes it more challenging for the local authorities to monitor or handle. What is more, his ward lacks sufficient budget to build a barrier to protect the 1-kilometer canal passing through the area.

Showing a thick pack of fining documents in this July for illegal waste throwing onto Tham Luong Canal as an evidence for the great effort to erase the littering habit in the neighborhood, Vice Chairman of the People’s Committee of Dong Hung Thuan Ward in District 12 Nguyen Dinh Bao Quoc sadly commented that bad habits do die hard.

HCMC has invested around VND750 billion ($32.3 million) in a very promising project to improve the water quality in Ba Bo Canal via the construction of a reservoir system to control and treat waste water (mostly from Binh Duong Province) before allowing it to flow into the canal system in the city. Unfortunately, this system cannot regularly operate since garbage has obstructed its functions.

Mr. Nguyen Van Dam, Director of the HCMC Irrigation Service Exploit Management Co. Ltd., in 2019, the company has hired divers to use specialized equipment to retrieve about 500 – 700 tons of waste. He added that since these kinds of garbage can turn into dangerous ones, the processing task is very costly. If only people were more aware of pollution and the damages of waste, this amount of money could be saved for more useful activities.

Mr. Dam suggested that the Urban Infrastructure Construction Investment Projects Management Unit should install automatic machines to clean trash at input locations so that the reservoir can operate more stably in the future.

By Staff Writers – Translated by Thanh Tam

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