Wastewater from millions of households in Ho Chi Minh City is the major cause of pollution of the Sai Gon River , and not effluents discharged by industries, a study carried out by Spanish experts has found.

"Wastewater from rubbish dumps, especially from Go Cat, which is located on the bank of the river, has strongly impacted the water quality of the river," Segimon Serrat Serra, head of the project funded by Spain , was quoted by Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper as saying.

Waterway transport followed because of regular oil spills.

Because of their small scale, agricultural and industrial production did not significantly affect the water quality.

However, wastewater from residential areas due to inefficient septic tanks, and rainwater runoff – since the city was highly cemented and the water did not seep into the soil – are the two biggest causes of pollution.

To improve the situation, the Spanish experts suggested setting up observation stations on the Sai Gon River with standards for river quality, adding that will require a legal framework.

"The most important task is to treat all wastewater and other wastes," Serra said.

He said local authorities should severely fine firms caught violating environmental laws, consider financial plans for setting up pollution control systems, and connect small plants' drainage systems with the city's wastewater treatment system.

To reduce agricultural pollution, they should educate farmers about using proper fertilisers and limited pesticides.

The city should collect all domestic wastewater and treat it, and keep a close eye on urban plans to ensure new residential areas have wastewater-treatment systems and substantial uncemented areas, he said.

The experience in Spain has shown that for effective environmental protection an environmental fund contributed by residents should be created to increase awareness in the community, he said.

Rubbish dumps should be located far from rivers and should have anti-leak and wastewater collection systems, he warned.

All urban planning should start with master planning, which should be scrupulously implemented, he added.

The city's Department of Natural Resources and Environment said 450 factories discharging more than 50 cubic metres of wastewater every day are sited along the Sai Gon River . Most fail to meet wastewater quality standards.-VNA