A Few Solutions for Improving the Water Quality of Polluted Rivers
and Canals in Vietnam: A Case of Ho Chi Minh City
Nguyen Tan Danh
Department of IT, FPT University, Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam
Keywords: Environment, Solutions, Pollution, Rivers, Canals.
Abstract: Ho Chi Minh City is continuously developing strongly in terms of economy and society, and people's
problems are gradually being actively overcome and improved. However, a problem that is causing many
shortcomings in recent times is the water pollution in the city area. While the direction to resolve has not been
clearly outlined, this situation is causing difficulties for daily activities of residents. Most canals are in the
city. Ho Chi Minh City is facing serious pollution. The people here can easily see a black water flowing along
the city's vast boulevards, this image that has existed for many years. This paper addresses a number of
possible solutions and by using interview and survey methods, the results of the paper shows that the
environment of a big city like Ho Chi Minh city needs strengthening more drastic solutions.
Currently in the city there are more than 17,000
shabby houses due to the construction of semi-
temporary houses located on and along the canals'
corridors, encroaching on the flow. This is part of the
reason for the increase in domestic waste in the flow
(Babut et al., 2019). In fact, the canals along the
residential areas, the level of pollution are alarmingly
high with a series of wastes, mainly domestic waste.
These canals is polluted like this because part of
people's awareness is not good, everyone poured
garbage into the canal, no wonder it is not polluted.
Contrary to the current socio-economic
development, environmental problems in Ho Chi
Minh City are going down seriously. Because it is one
of the major cities in Vietnam, HCMC has a dense
population and many industrial parks. Wastewater
from residential areas and industrial wastewater is the
main cause of water pollution.
2.1 The Alarming Pollution Situation
of Rivers in Ho Chi Minh City
Although Ho Chi Minh City has implemented many
solutions to reduce water pollution in the Saigon
River basin over the years, up to now, the pollution is
still in excess of the permitted level, affecting public
health (Figure 1).
Figure 1: The status of river pollution in Ho Chi Minh city.
Nguyen, T.
A Few Solutions for Improving the Water Quality of Polluted Rivers and Canals in Vietnam: A Case of Ho Chi Minh City.
DOI: 10.5220/0010585300100015
In Proceedings of the International Scientific and Practical Conference on Sustainable Development of Regional Infrastructure (ISSDRI 2021), pages 10-15
ISBN: 978-989-758-519-7
2021 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
According to the monitoring results of the General
Department of Environment, under the Ministry of
Natural Resources and Environment (Natural
Resources and Environment), the water quality of the
Saigon River observed in the first five phases of 2020
has a clear change from upstream to downstream.
24% of the water quality index (WQI) value reaches
the level of use for domestic water supply but requires
appropriate treatment measures. Notably, 1.3% of the
value is at heavily polluted water level, which
requires future treatment measures (Danh & Hoi,
The evolution of surface water quality in the
Saigon River from 2016 to 2020 shows that the
organic pollution (COD and BOD5) content does not
increase much, but the BOD5 / COD ratio tends to
increase at most of the monitoring points, proving that
the control of domestic wastewater is not good. This
is consistent with the new statistic that 21.6% of
domestic wastewater is collected and treated (Thi Van
Ha et al, 2008).
Over the past time, although Ho Chi Minh City
has made efforts to implement many measures to
protect the environment, there are still many pressing
problems, seriously affecting the quality of water
resources in the Saigon River basin. Saigon River
flows through the territory of a number of localities
in the southern key economic region, where many
production establishments and industrial parks are
concentrated. Because the population of Ho Chi Minh
City is concentrated, the amount of domestic
wastewater is very large but has not been thoroughly
treated, causing water pollution in the city (Le Vo,
2.2 A Number of Activities Aimed at
Overcoming River Pollution
In order to limit the environmental pollution impact
on the Saigon River, Ho Chi Minh City has conducted
inspection and violation handling activities. Up to
now, all 37 establishments causing serious pollution
in the city have completed the treatment of pollution
completely or have been relocated or shut down
(reaching 100%), of which 21 establishments have
stopped operating Export, relocation and 16 facilities
have completed the treatment of pollution (Thi Van
Ha et al, 2008). The city has studied the WQI water
quality zoning and assessed the use of water resources
of rivers, canals and ditches in the area. The city has
also deployed statistics on pollution sources from
industrial wastewater in the city to assess and
preliminarily determine the level of pollution caused
by wastewater from industrial production activities
on the river city (Le Vo, 2007). Dong Nai river system
(including the Saigon river basin). The city has also
investigated and counted the points of direct
discharge to canals and channels in the basin of the
Saigon - Dong Nai river; calculating the pollutant
load of the wastes discharged into canals and
channels in the Saigon - Dong Nai river basin; GIS
mapping for management and monitoring of
discharge points directly to canals and ditches in
Saigon - Dong Nai river basin.
In the coming time, the city will continue to build
local environmental technical regulations, evaluate,
classify and build a national database on waste
sources. The city has increased the dissemination of
the WQI index on the 48-board traffic electronic
system; continue to maintain the web-based system
that includes all general information and data of each
monitoring location; Integrate into the environmental
monitoring portal and mobile application that can
access, access and monitor environmental monitoring
data via smart phones (Hoi, 2020).
Along with that, the city continues to review and
propose a list of facilities causing environmental
pollution, serious environmental pollution, and
production facilities that are not in line with the urban
construction planning. At the same time, the city
urged facilities to complete remediation measures, or
relocate on time. The city also continues to update
data on environmental database management
software, complete the environmental database (Le
Vo, 2009).
This paper is made and completed based on the
analysis of historical and current data on
environmental pollution in Ho Chi Minh City and
gives some suitable recommendations.
A small survey with the participation of 20 people
living near canals in Ho Chi Minh City also showed
that the results were not very satisfactory. Most of
them expressed dissatisfaction with the terrible smell
of the canals. During low tide, the smell from these
canals affects their life quite significantly (90%).
Most of the people (100%) think that they cannot use
water wells for domestic purposes because the
pollution is very serious. The smell of the water is
also very bad and the color of the water is
problematic. In addition, some people are less
conscious since they throw rubbish indiscriminately;
they even throw animal carcasses down the canals.
A Few Solutions for Improving the Water Quality of Polluted Rivers and Canals in Vietnam: A Case of Ho Chi Minh City
Some people also use canals as toilets, this has a big
impact on residents' daily lives.
Figure 2: Respondents ‘ideas about improving environment
When asked about the solutions, the majority
(70%) said that the government needs stronger
measures. Others (20%) said that propaganda plays a
rather important role. The remainder believe that the
slums need to be relocated soon to improve the
environment (Figure 2).
Currently, about 20% of the people do not have
access to clean water, 17.2 million people still use
water that does not meet the clean water standards of
the Ministry of Health of Vietnam. The total amount
of water being exploited and used annually is 80.6
billion m3 / 830 billion m3 (10% of the total water
volume of the country. Of which more than 80%
(about 65 billion m3 / year) is used for agriculture. ;
The demand for water for people living and industry
will reach about 130-150 billion m3 / year,
accounting for nearly 50% of the water produced in
the territory, nearly 90% of the water in the dry season
(about 170 billion m3 ).
The risk of dehydration is obvious and severe.
Degradation, depletion of surface water,
groundwater, water shortage, water scarcity become
more common.
Statistics from the Ministry of Natural Resources
and Environment, the Ministry of Health, currently
each year, about 9,000 people die from poor water
and sanitation, nearly 250,000 people are hospitalized
because of diarrhea due to polluted domestic water.
About 200,000 people get cancer each year, one of
the main causes is water pollution. According to a
WHO study on malnutrition in Vietnamese children,
it has issued a warning that about 44% of children are
infected with worms and 27% of children under 5 are
malnourished, the main cause. This is due to lack of
clean water and poor sanitation. Besides, about 21%
of the population is using arsenic contaminated water.
It is very worrying that, in fact, there is still a segment
of the population despite these red alarm numbers.
According to a recent report by the Ministry of
Natural Resources and Environment, up to 30% of the
population is not aware of the importance of using
safe water.
4.1 Causes of Water Pollution
The reason is indicated by the hot growth in
population, rapid urbanization and industrialization in
recent years, which has put pressure on the water
environment in river basins (Babut et al., 2019). The
level of pollution of water sources in canals, rivers
and lakes in big cities and concentrated population
areas is very serious (Figure 3).
Figure 3: The slums in Ho Chi Minh city.
Of the total amount of wastewater generated in
river basins, domestic and industrial wastewater still
accounts for the largest proportion (Hoi, 2020).
According to the latest national environmental status
report (2018), the rate of domestic wastewater
collected in urban areas of grade 4 and above is only
about 12.5%, with 45 factories, Wastewater treatment
stations, concentrated in 29 provinces and cities (in
Hanoi alone, 20.62% of domestic wastewater is
treated, while in HCMC about 13%). Out of 251
industrial zones in operation, there are 221 industrial
zones with complete centralized wastewater
treatment system and in operation, accounting for
88%. However, out of 689 industrial clusters in
operation, only 109 industrial clusters with
wastewater treatment facilities were in operation,
accounting for only 15.8%. The rate of daily-life solid
waste collected and treated is about 86% in urban
areas, about 40% -55% in rural areas; a very large
portion is discharged into the water supply (Le Vo,
Relocating the
ISSDRI 2021 - International Scientific and Practical Conference on Sustainable Development of Regional Infrastructure
In addition, the amount of fertilizers, pesticides,
and chemicals used in agricultural cultivation that
flow back into the water source is also considered
"seriously polluting". Notably, measurement and
monitoring data at border locations also recorded
polluted water sources that have been flowing into
our territory.
Besides, the current provisions of law on licensing
wastewater discharge are not appropriate.
Cooperation in water sharing as well as cross-border
pollution control continues to be a challenging issue,
requiring smart political-diplomatic policies.
Statistics of the Department of Natural Resources
and Environment of Ho Chi Minh City show that the
city currently has about 3,300 sources of waste from
production, trade and service establishments. In
which, only 35% of production, service and trade
establishments have environmental treatment systems
meeting environmental standards (Danh & Hoi,
Water quality monitoring results have just been
announced by the Department of Natural Resources
and Environment, showing that the water source in
the canal system in Ho Chi Minh City is in a state of
heavy pollution. Components such as BOD5
(biological oxygen demand), COD (chemical oxygen
demand), microbiological criteria (coliform),
suspended matter content (SS), heavy metals, etc. all
exceed the magnetic standard tens to thousands of
times allowed. Pollution becomes more serious at low
tide (Hoi, 2020).
This situation reduces the quality of water
resources in the inner city canals and river water
sources, seriously affecting the water supply for daily
life of the city people city (Le Vo, 2007). Only the
wastewater from the export processing zones and
industrial zones in the city has shown an alarming
level of pollution (Gia, 2021). In Ho Chi Minh City,
15 export processing zones and industrial zones have
put into operation the centralized wastewater
treatment system, but still more than 700 other
sources of waste that have not been fully controlled
are still being discharged into the environment. That
is not to mention the small-dispersed industrial
establishments located in the residential areas also
regularly discharge untreated wastewater into canals
(Duc & Truong, 2003).
Meanwhile, a scientific study of the Project to
control scattered waste sources along the Saigon
River funded by the Government of Spain in Ho Chi
Minh City also showed that the domestic wastewater
of the city people also is one of the main causes of
such serious pollution.
The research results of this project show that the
water quality of the Saigon River is degraded by
many sources of waste such as urban runoff,
wastewater from residential areas, oil leakage from
water traffic activities, landfill, mining and industrial
and agricultural production. In which, the most
worrying thing is wastewater in residential areas,
especially domestic wastewater contaminated with
feces and urban runoff (Gia, 2021). Due to the
growing concrete area of the city, rainwater cannot
penetrate the ground, but overflows carry all the
waste on the ground down to the canals leading to the
river. And the waste from the septic tanks that are not
working effectively or not go through the septic tanks
is discharged into the river, making the river water
polluted quite seriously (Thi Van Ha et al, 2008).
4.2 The Effects of Water Pollution on
People's Life
Vietnam has a dense river and a large number of
rivers and streams concentrated in big cities like Ha
Noi and Ho Chi Minh city (Figure 4).
Figure 4. River flow per area (bill m³ / year)
According to the statistics of the Ministry of
Health, the Ministry of Natural Resources and
Environment, an average of 9,000 people die each
year from polluted water, over 200,000 cases of
cancer are found, one of the causes is due to using
polluted water. When water is contaminated with
microorganisms, toxic chemicals, etc. can adversely
affect the health of users (Bolay et al., 1997).
When the water environment is contaminated
with bacteria, viruses, parasites or when the water
becomes the medium for vectors of disease such as:
gastrointestinal disease (diarrhea, cholera, dysentery,
typhoid, Hepatitis A, etc.); helminthiasis
(roundworm, whipworm, hookworm, liver fluke,
pulmonary fluke, schistosomiasis, etc.); Using dirty
water in personal hygiene can lead to skin diseases;
eye diseases (red eye pain, trachoma, conjunctivitis,
conjunctivitis); gynecological diseases such as
bacterial vaginosis, etc.
A Few Solutions for Improving the Water Quality of Polluted Rivers and Canals in Vietnam: A Case of Ho Chi Minh City
Scientific studies also show that, when using
arsenic-contaminated water for drinking, people can
get cancer, most commonly skin cancer. In addition,
arsenic also poisoning the circulatory system when
drinking water with arsenic content of 0.1mg / l.
Therefore, it is necessary to treat arsenic
contaminated water before using it for daily life and
eating (Duc & Truong, 2003).
People with long-term lead infection can suffer
from kidney, nerve, ammonium, nitrate, nitrite
infection that can cause blue skin disease, anemia, can
cause cancer. Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), a
common additive in oil extraction, has a very high
potential to cause cancer. Sodium (Na) infection
causes high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease,
sulfur causes gastrointestinal disease, Potassium,
Cadmium cause degenerative spinal disease, back
pain. Organic compounds, pesticides, insecticides,
herbicides, growth stimulants, food preservatives,
phosphorus, etc. cause poisoning, hepatitis, vomiting
city (Le Vo, 2007).
Long-term exposure will cause serious cancer of
internal organs. Bacteria and parasites of all kinds are
the causes of gastrointestinal diseases, worms and
helminth infections. Heavy metals of all kinds:
titanium, iron, lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, zinc
cause nerve pain, kidney, excretory system,
osteomyelitis, anemia.
For a long time, the city has not synchronously
implemented measures to protect the water
environment; funding for monitoring and checking
the discharge of enterprises, production
establishments, etc. is insufficient. The monitoring
force is limited, so a number of businesses have
discharged wastewater directly into the river system,
causing water pollution. The city should have
propaganda policies to let people in the city in
particular, as well as people from other places come
to do business and live in the city, see their
responsibility in protecting the environment, and see
the city as of their own, associated with their own
survival. At the same time, the city should strengthen
sanctions, severely punish violations of
environmental laws.
We need long-term and short-term solutions to
help improve canal pollution. Specifically, the
reduction of water pollution in canals should be
community based. At the same time, we need to add
the function of environmental self-management to the
neighborhoods, promote their role in propaganda to
raise people's awareness, especially households living
along canals without littering and wastewater into the
river (Thi Van Ha et al, 2008).
Another solution is to survey, mobilize and
encourage households to build water storage tank to
avoid environmental pollution and not go directly to
the natural environment. This approach allows a 60%
reduction in pollutant concentrations for BOD5 and
40% for COD. We also need to strengthen
propaganda, advocacy, punishment education,
enforcement of law enforcement, encourage
investment establishments and well implement
construction regulations city (Le Vo, 2007). In
addition, the management agency should strengthen
measures to manage, supervise and inspect
wastewater treatment facilities to reduce the risk of
water quality pollution (Thuong et al., 2007).
In the long term, it is necessary to increase the
capacity of state management on the protection of
surface water environment; building a network of
domestic wastewater collection, connecting to the
city's general collection and treatment system as
planned; improve the garbage collection network. It
is necessary to prioritize investment in the urgent
treatment of water pollution and degradation in canals
and rivers such as standard wastewater treatment
systems, drainage and domestic wastewater treatment
systems; strengthening the dredging of polluted
canals, embankment construction.
The speed of industrialization and urbanization is
quite fast and the population growth has put
increasing pressure on water resources in the
territory. The water environment in many cities,
industrial parks and craft villages is increasingly
polluted by wastewater, emissions and solid waste. In
big cities, the high density of domestic waste is also
an important cause of water pollution. The
communication campaign to raise awareness, the
community consciously protects water resources,
especially the need to apply stricter regulations on
pollution control, forcing all businesses to Enterprises
- from small to large scale - must meet the minimum
standards of wastewater in production and business,
and avoid environmental pollution. After all, clean
water and fresh air are essential to a healthy life.
ISSDRI 2021 - International Scientific and Practical Conference on Sustainable Development of Regional Infrastructure
There is no conflict of interestin the paper.
Babut, M., Mourier, B., Desmet, M., Simonnet-Laprade, C.,
Labadie, P., Budzinski, H., Gratiot, N. (2019). Where
has the pollution gone? A survey of organic
contaminants in Ho Chi Minh city/Saigon River
(Vietnam) bed sediments. Chemosphere. 217:261-269.
Bolay, J. C., Cartoux, S., Cunha, A., Du, T. T. N., Bassand,
M. (1997). Sustainable development and urban growth:
Precarious habitat and water management in Ho Chi
Minh City, Vietnam. Habitat International. 21(2):185-
Danh, N. T., Hoi, H. T. (2019). Effects of plastic waste to
sea environment in Vietnam. In IOP Conference Series:
Earth and Environmental Science. IOP Publishing.
Duc, H. N., Truong, T. P. (2003). Water resources and
environment in and around Ho Chi Minh City,
Vietnam. Electronic Green Journal. 1(19).
Gia, B. H. (2021). Some solutions for sustainable
agricultural tourism development in the Mekong Delta
in Vietnam. In E3S Web of Conferences. EDP
Sciences. 234.
Hoi, H. T. (2020). Impacts of Urbanization on the
Environment of Ho Chi Minh City. In IOP Conference
Series: Earth and Environmental Science. IOP
Publishing. 505:1.
Le Vo, P. (2007). Urbanization and water management in
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam-issues, challenges and
perspectives. GeoJournal. 70(1):75-89.
Le Vo, P. (2009). Water resource management in Ho Chi
Minh City, Vietnam: An overview. Science and
Technology Development Journal. 12(2):51-63.
Thi Van Ha, N., Kitajima, M., Vo Minh Hang, N.,
Matsubara, K., Takizawa, S., Katayama, H., Ohgaki, S.
(2008). Bacterial contamination of raw vegetables,
vegetable-related water and river water in Ho Chi Minh
City. Vietnam. Water Science and Technology. 58(12):
Thuong, N. T., Takizawa, S., Dan, N. P., Truong, B. D.
2007. Water pollution in innercity canals in Ho Chi
Minh City, Viet Nam. Southeast Asian water
environment. 2:107-114.
A Few Solutions for Improving the Water Quality of Polluted Rivers and Canals in Vietnam: A Case of Ho Chi Minh City