Traditional brick kilns release untreated gas into air in Cho Moi district, southern province of An Giang (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) –
Fewer new pollution hotspots have been found in Vietnam in the past few years, but vigilance is needed to control potential risks, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s Vietnam Environment Administration has said.

Figures from the administration show as many as 80 hotspots of environmental pollution were found and handled in 2016-18.

In 2016, 50 hotspots were found. The number decreased to 20 in 2017 and 15 in 2018.

Nguyen Van Tai, Director of the administration, said most hotspots arose due to untreated wastewater discharged by businesses, industrial zones and craft villages.

He cited some pollution crises caused by untreated wastewater.

In September last year, GYPS, a wastewater facility at a fertiliser-processing plant under State-run chemical corporation Vinachem in northern Lao Cai province, broke down. The wastewater flew into the Thao River, polluting the river water. Local residents were warned not to use the river water for daily activities or irrigation.

The same month, wastewater spilled from a reservoir built for washing aluminum at Nhan Co Aluminum Plant in the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong, polluting residents’ crops in three villages of Dak R’Lap district.

A series of discharges of untreated waste water from private businesses and households occurred early last year, Vietnam News Agency reported. In March, Vietnam Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing Limitedwas forced to stop operations after being accused of discharging untreated wastewater, affecting nearby households.

Residents living along Ngu Huyen Khe River in northern Bac Ninh province have been complaining about horrible odour and black water from the river. Businesses and households have discharged untreated wastewater into the river for years.

Fish and clams have also been the victims of the untreated wastewater. Mass fish and clam deaths in the La Nga River in southern Dong Nai province, Bong Mieu River in central Quang Nam province, Xuan Thieu Beach in Da Nang city and West Lake in Hanoi were reported between March and July of 2018.

Tai said the storage, transport and burying of rubbish attracted public attention last year. Many dialogues were held between agencies and residents in Phuong Thanh Dumping Site in Ha Tinh province and Soc Son Dumping Site in Hanoi after residents protested dumping activities.

These hotspots have harmed public health and caused financial losses.

The problem, according to Tai, was a shortage of mechanisms and criteria to classify investment projects likely to harm the environment, as well as shortage of mechanisms to encourage investors to invest in green economic zones and eco-friendly products.

Loose management on licensing large-scale projects, especially evaluation of environmental impacts, also contributed to pollution.

Tai said the administration has set up an inspection team to supervise the trial operation of wastewater treatment systems of large-scale businesses such as Vietnam Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing Limited, the VNT19 wood-pulp Plant in Dung Quat Economic Zone, Nghi Son Oil Refinery in central Thanh Hoa province and Vinh Tan Thermal Power Plant in southern Binh Thuan province and other businesses.

A special control scheme for projects and facilities likely to cause environmental pollution has been set up.

A hotline, which received reports from local residents about environmental incidents, would continue to be operated, he said.

Last year, more than 920 calls were made to report air, water and solid waste. A total 57 percent of the calls were investigated by local authorities, he said.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Vietnam has 283 industrial zones and 615 industrial complex, discharging more than 550,000cu.m of wastewater per day.

Notably, only five percent are equipped with wastewater treatment systems.-VNS/VNA