The Effects of Water Pollution in Vietnam

                                                           Phuong Quach


         I was born and grew up in Vietnam, so I know my country well. In recent years, Vietnam has become a more developed country, so Vietnamese people have been facing many problems due to industrial development, urbanization, and rapid population growth. One of the major problems is the lack of or inadequate waste-treatment systems. Most waste water is not treated before flowing to the rivers, and this has caused massive pollution. Water pollution has already had negative effects on the environment and human health.

Water pollution has a negative affect on the environment in many places. One serious problem has been the disappearance of fish. For example, in 2008, there was a river pollution scandal in Dong Nai province. The Environmental Protection Agency under the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment discovered that a Flour and Seasoning Powder Factory in Vedan, Vietnam was directly discharging a large volume of waste water into the Thi Vai River through three pipes. The firm’s waste water contained high contents of molasses and chemicals. Consequently, the Vedan factory killed all forms of life in the Thi Vai River. The river used to be clean and full of fish. It soon became dirty, narrow, and shallow, so it no longer had fish or aquatic life. In addition, water pollution has destroyed plant life. Like animals, the plants need water to live. Plants died when they were irrigated with water containing heavy chemicals or when their roots absorbed polluted underground water. For instance, some of the dye and weave factories in the Tan Binh District discharged their waste water to the canals, so the water in the canals turned a dark blue or yellow color. The polluted water also killed animals and plants along the canals, resulting in more plant and animal species becoming endangered. Furthermore, water pollution has also led to loss of biodiversity and the breakdown of the ecosystem. For example, the Mangrove is the only kind of tree which can grow in Can Gio district because of salt in the water, and mostly weeds grow in Tam Tan, Cu Chi District because of alum in the water; no other plants can grow in such polluted water.

Besides harming the environment, water pollution has had serious effects on human health. Farmers would use polluted water to water their plants. When people ate these plants, they became sick with diseases such as diarrhea, bacterial infections, and even cancer. I used to ride my motorbike along the rivers in District 8 to my paternal grandmother’s house. I saw the black rivers  filled with trash, and I always held my nose, held my breath, and rode fast because I couldn’t stand the stench, which smelled like rotten meat. I felt sorry for the people who had to live next to those black rivers and breathe in the dirty air and use the polluted water over the years. They used that water every day. They got diarrhea, bouts of vomiting, and serious diseases. Moreover, the situation in the Thach Son village alarmed the local people. Lam Thao Fertilizer and Chemical company (Lam Thao) polluted the Thach Son village in Phu Tho province. Lam Thao discharged waste water  containing ammoniac sulfate and other chemicals into the rivers of the village. This total disregard for the environment and human health caused liver, lung, stomach, and upper jaw cancer among the local people. Thach Son village became known as “cancer village” because many families had 2 or 3 members die of cancer. From 1991 to 2005, 106 villagers died from various cancers, and many more people had gotten cancer. Eventually, 70% of the villagers got cancer. Furthermore, some people drank water with lethal chemicals and died before the cancer could kill them. These devastating effects of water pollution have made the Vietnamese very aware that the necessity of environmental protection is more important than solving the problems caused by water pollution after it’s too late.

In conclusion, Vietnam has faced difficult problems during its development. Water is a necessity for all living things – plants, animals, and people. Polluted water has negative effects on living things and prevents them from flourishing. Vietnam must protect the water supply and build the waste-treatment systems it needs before more rivers are depleted and more preventable illnesses and deaths occur.