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Once Filled With Shrimp And Fish, HCMC Canal Now An Environmental Disaster

At the center of HCMC's modernization plans have been massive upgrades to the city’s canals. Some, like the Nhieu Loc - Thi Nghe, have received international press for their miraculous turnarounds. However, not all the cleanups have been so successful.

Expensive renewal efforts amounting to VND1.1 trillion ($52.9 million) on the Ba Bo Canal that runs through Saigon’s Thu Duc District have been hampered by upstream factories which dump 10,000 cubic meters of untreated waste into its waters each day. Now, pollutants create meters-high waves of white foam that not only clog the waterway, but also blow into the homes of those who live along the canal, reports Tuoi Tre.

One local resident, Nguyen Van Tu, said that children and the elderly have been hit particular hard by the toxic environment.

“Many elderly people and children have caught respiratory diseases and have an inflamed oral cavity,” Tu told the paper. “There is no medical evidence to confirm it but I am sure the health symptoms and diseases are related to pollution.”

Some have considered moving but have decided to stay put as not to interrupt their businesses and children’s studies.

It wasn’t always like this.

“The water was limpid and green with an abundance of fish and shrimp before 1990. It took me just an hour to catch fish from the waterway to feed my family of ten for two or three days,” said 73-year-old Pham Van Lic, adding, “We even used the water for bathing and cooking then.”

That all changed when industrial parks, ignoring environmental safety standards, began operations in upstream Binh Duong. By 2003, all wildlife had disappeared.

Though construction is underway on a biological lake meant to clean the canal’s waters, it may prove ineffective as long as factories continue to fill it with untreated waste.

Binh Duong officials have pledged to build a system to detect illegal waste dumping, however, it remains to be seen how that will translate into changes in these harmful practices.

[Tuoi Tre]

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