Vietnam is using its major rivers as dumping grounds or excavation sites, and this poses a risk of severe water shortage for tens of millions of people in the near future, experts warn. Members of Vietnam Rivers Network (VNR), the country’s largest advocacy group for water resource protection, said at a conference Saturday that rivers in Vietnam “are being heavily exploited.” The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment had estimated in 2010 that 1.1 million cubic meters of wastewater were dumped into freshwater sources every day, and the volume is expected to surge to 2.4 million cubic meters by the end of the decade.

VNR said unless the water environment is improved, around 30 million people living along rivers are facing a clear risk of water shortage, which would be severe for the entire country in future. Most of the pollution happens in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s biggest cities, nearby provinces with intense industrial activity, and the Mekong Delta, where aquaculturists have many fish farms along the river and hydropower dams upstream have affected the river flow and water quality. Tran Thi Le Anh, a senior environment official at the ministry, said many rivers in Hanoi and nearby provinces are heavily polluted by waste discharged from trade villages.
“They stink terribly in the dry season. The water quality has reached alarming levels.”