Water resources and environment in and around Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Abstract

In this paper, the status of water environment and water resources in and around Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) is described. The increase in population, and rapid economic growth in recent years, after Doi Moi (Renovation) Policy, have put a large and increasing stress on the water resources and environment in the city. The demand from industries, businesses and households surpass the current supply distribution capacities. The water quality in river courses and underground sources is also highly degraded due to many sources of pollution.

The authorities have initiated some joint venture works with some foreign water companies to invest in the commercial development of water supply infrastructure. Various environment organisations in the city have responded to the problems of water pollution. Of interest are the emerging roles of Non-Government Organisations (NGO) and of public participation in environment issues, especially in a traditionally government-controlled society. Some suggestions for improvement of water management are also proposed in the paper

I- Introduction

Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam with a current (1995) population of about 5 millions and which is increasing rapidly due to internal migration and natural growth. The city covers an area of 2,056 km2, which is about 0.61% of the total country area and a population density of 2,338 persons/km2 [1][2]. With rapid economic growth following the opening of the Vietnamese economy after ‘Doi Moi’ or ‘Renovation Policy’ in 1987 and the end of the US trade embargo in 1994, water demand in the City has been increasing rapidly. This has caused considerable stress on the environment.

The Ho Chi Minh City Service of Communication and Public Works (SCPW) has admitted in Sept. 1998 that the city’s decades-old water supply system is incapable of meeting the growing demand. According to the SCPW, the water consumption is estimated to be 800,000 m3 per day, but the combined daily capacity of its two water treatment plants at Thu Duc and Hoc Mon, and of underground wells in the city stops short at 750,000 m3. In addition, if water loss in delivery is taken into account (the proportion of water loss can be as high as 32 percent in some areas), then only about 500,000 m3 are available for use each day. In 2000, in fact the daily water demand jumped up to 1,250,000 m3/day while the supply capacity of Water Supply Company could only reach 850,000 m3/day [3]. This is despite the fact that the City is situated in an area where water resources are plentiful and potential supply should be able to meet the increased demand even with sustained urban growth if the water resources are properly developed and managed. Ho Chi Minh City is situated next to the Saigon River, which joins the Dong Nai River to make northern and eastern boundaries of the city. These waterways can act both as potential water supply resources and as a medium to carry away the wastewater.

The Dong Nai River has a minimum flow of approximately 100m3/sec. It is originated from the Central Highlands of Vietnam and flows through Dong Nai and Ho Chi Minh City with contributories from other provinces. The total catchment area is 42,665km2 and total flow volume is 30.6 km3/year [4]. Forests cover approximately 30% of the basin. The upstream area in the lowland part of the river is the present Cat Tien National Park. The Tri An reservoir and hydropower plant is located downstream nearby. Further downstream of the river, it is joined at Nha Be area of Ho Chi Minh City by the Saigon River. Inside the city, a hydrological network of 5 canals acts as the natural water drainage [5]: Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe (9km), Tau Hu – Kinh Doi – Kinh Te (19.5km), Ben Nghe (5.9km), Tan Hoa – Ong Buong – Lo Gom (7.2km), and Tham Luong – Ben Cat – Vam Thuat (14km).

Figure 1 – Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding areas (source: ESRI World map)

Before reaching finally to the sea, the Dong Nai river passes through a coastal mangrove forested delta area with many interconnecting riverlets. This Can Gio area is the “green lungs” of Ho Chi Minh City. This 75,740 ha area is rich in biodiversity and has been designated in 2000 as a Man and Biosphere (MAB) Mangrove Reserve area by UNESCO.

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