The Hanoitimes - Vietnam`s population growth and rapid economic development drive up its people`s demand for water, which puts water resource at risk of being depleted, posing a big threat to sustainable development.
Vietnam is facing major challenges of water security while climate change is increasingly complicated, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha warned at the workshop titled "Vietnam: Towards a safe, clean and resilient water system" held in Hanoi on May 30.
The risk of water shortage exists
Addressing the workshop, Minister Ha stressed the dependence of Vietnam on foreign water sources when about 63% of the total flow into Vietnam comes from China, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. Of the 208 rivers in Vietnam, up to 126 ones originate from other countries. 90% of the Mekong river’s flow and and over 50% of the Red river’s flow come from foreign countries.
As of 2018, the water volume of Vietnam is about 8,760 m3/person/year, lower than the national standard in view of the International Water Association, Ha cited.
He added that Vietnam is also one of the countries heavily affected by climate change. Due to its impacts, water in the dry season tends to decline, droughts become prolonged and more serious. Therefore, water resource issues currently remain as risk, which will be felt more clearly soon.
Due to diverse terrain conditions, each Vietnamese region suffers different levels and nature of impact, Ha said, adding that the impact of climate change on Vietnam’s northern mountainous region is severe due to prolonged droughts and concentrated rainfall with high intensity that leads to dangerous flash floods.
The south central region has the lowest rainfall in Vietnam, often with prolonged droughts. The region is also affected by sea level rise that causes saline intrusion and coastal erosion. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s southern region is prone to flooding and saline intrusion. Sea level rise as forecast for 2030 will put about 45% of the land area to be at risk of extreme salinity.
However, the common perception of most Vietnamese people is that the country’s water source is endless and many are still wasting water. "The risk of water shortage in Vietnam is not only a forecast but also a reality in many regions throughout the country," the minister stressed.
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha addresses the event. Photo: Hoang Minh
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha also emphasized the challenges that Vietnam is facing in terms of water resource management. Population growth and rapid economic development drive up the demand for water, which puts water resource at risk of being depleted, posing a threat to sustainable development.
Meanwhile, a World Bank (WB) research identified that by 2035, water pollution could cost Vietnam about 3.5% of GDP each year, Ha cited.
Water resource is a key factor for Vietnam’s prosperity
Talking more about Ha's above-mentioned challenges, WB Country Director for Vietnam Ousmane Dione said that if Vietnam takes action early, it will ensure that water resource will continue to be a key factor to help Vietnam achieve prosperity.
Ousmane Dione noted that Vietnam’s development of its abundant water resources has been key to driving the country’s rapid growth. More than 7,500 dams store and divert water to thousands of irrigation schemes, making Vietnam one of the world’s richest rice baskets. Hydropower produces almost 40% of the nation’s electricity. The great majority of the population have access to safe water services. Today, Vietnam can recognize and be proud of these extraordinary successes.
But new challenges have also emerged. Challenges of a different nature from those the country has so successfully tackled during the past two decades. The challenges today are those of a maturing economy in a complex context of climate change. The challenges of securing gains, improving efficiency and productivity, consolidating institutions, improving human capital, upgrading the country’s infrastructure base, and adapting to the changing mother nature, the WB official added.
He cited that over 90% of water used nationwide is allocated to irrigation and aquaculture. From each cubic meter of water, Vietnam produces just US$2.37 of GDP against a global average of US$19.42, about eight times as much.
Ousmane Dione stressed that pollution is fouling surface and groundwater. Sewage, industrial effluents and solid waste are clogging watercourses. Some rivers - once clean - in and around major cities have turned into contaminated streams. It is estimated that at the end of 2018, centralized wastewater treatment plants are treating only about 71% of industrial wastewater from industrial zones. Only 46% of urban households have connections to drainage systems and only 12.5% of municipal wastewater is treated.
Those challenges are very real in the water sector and call for a renewed model of water resource management to adapt Vietnam’s ambitions to its economic prospects. This model must look “toward a safe, clean and resilient water system” to support the country’s aspirations to become a high-income economy, the country director stressed.
Minister Ha pledged that the WB official’s recommendations will be used by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment as a precious document to effectively promote water resource management, set plans for sustainable development in water resource, raise community awareness of effective and sustainable water use.
World Bank Country Director for Vietnam Ousmane Dione delivers speech at the workshop. Photo: Hoang Minh