Vietnam, a southeastern Asian country whose coastline stretches 12 nautical miles, imminently struggles with providing clean water to those living there. The country has over 2360 rivers and about two-thirds of its population resides near one of Vietnam’s three water basins. Even so, most of this aquatic supply is unusable and undrinkable. The ongoing Vietnamese water crisis is so threatening that it is a focal point of national policy and international concern.
Both government and industrial issues exacerbate the Vietnamese water crisis. Poor regulation coupled with irresponsible handling of waste has led Vietnam’s ponds, lakes, and canals to shortages and contamination.
In March of 2018, the Coalition for Clean Water and the Centre for Environment and Community Research released a report detailing how industry has altered the water quality in Vietnam. The report revealed that about 70 percent of waste released from industrial parks is directly released into the environment. These tainted waters carry dangerous chemicals and cause illnesses.
The World Bank’s estimations concerning the crisis show that it is no diminutive issue. The organization notes that rising threats against Vietnam’s water supply could reduce the nation’s GDP by six percent by the year 2035. Pollution presents itself as the biggest hazard to water basins, which drain into water outlets all over the country. In the most highly polluted areas, wastewater has poisoned the air to the point that it has become odorous and toxic.
Impacts of the Crisis
Those living in rural areas suffer the most from water sanitation issues. Only 39 percent of rural individuals have access to clean water. Furthermore, most of these individuals must use water wells that tap into underground aquifers to compensate for the lack of a clean water source at the surface.
The absence of clean water does not only deprive rural Vietnamese of their basic needs, but it also affects their ability to efficiently participate in the economy. Agricultural production is a precious monetary asset that takes up 80 percent of Vietnam’s water supply. The infrastructure needed to transport clean water to farms is unstable.
The Vietnamese water crisis has created national health issues, as well. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment estimates that up to 80 percent of diseases in Vietnam is directly caused by water pollution. Nearly six million citizens have contracted a waterborne illness, the most rampant being cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and malaria.
Impacts on Children
Children are the main concern for the international community as dirty water affects the growth and development of a new generation.
UNICEF reports that more than 9.5 million Vietnamese still release excreta into their surroundings, further contaminating the water supply. Children lack the matured immune system needed to fight off the problems generated by this unhygienic practice, such as diarrhea, pneumonia, and parasitic infection. Diarrhea is responsible for nearly 10 percent of the deaths of children under the age of five.
USAID Intervention in the Ha Lam Commune
USAID has routinely provided donations and grants to the Vietnamese government to solve humanitarian issues. A recent project launched on March 30, 2019, is aimed at assuaging the problems perpetrated by water pollution.
The project, called the Vietnam Local Works for Environmental Health, focuses on the Ha Lam commune in the Thanh Hoa province. Small scale water supply systems are currently being entrenched in the region to provide clean water to kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools. The new infrastructure is estimated to benefit over 20,000 individuals living in this northern province.
The Ha Lam commune, however, is not the only area where children are at risk. Education institutions in other parts of Vietnam are also in need of effective water supply systems, as more than 80 percent of schools around the nation lack fully operating water sanitation facilities.
Due to the awareness and concentration on the Vietnamese water crisis, it is possible that this problem will soon be overcome. By 2025, the Vietnamese government hopes to attain the clean water standards needed to revive an unhealthy public and a feeble economic production. Specifically, the government has launched a national plan directed at hindering the open defecation that so commonly contaminates the country’s water supply.
With six years to go until Vietnam’s standard is hopefully achieved, it is imperative that this issue remain persistent in the global mind. The government and participating groups must remain resilient through the growing population and industry in Vietnam that work to destabilize existing plans. Clean water is required if the human and environmental body is to exist comfortably.
– Annie O’Connell