Ba River on verge of dying
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VietNamNet Bridge – The 374 km Ba River running from the Tay Nguyen (Central Highland Province) of Gia Lai to the central coastal province of Phu Yen before joining the sea is on the verge of dying.

In the past, the river was the main source of water for millions of people living along the river banks and irrigated thousands of hectares of farm land in Gia Lai Province, plus more than 20,000 ha of rice fields in the Tuy Hoa Delta – the largest rice basket in central Viet Nam.

But in recent years, illegal logging in the watershed forests and the construction of the An Khe and Ka Nat hydro power plants on the portion running through Gia Lai Province in 2010 have contributed to declining water levels and increased pollution, Tien Phong (The Vanguard) reports.

Nguyen Thanh Phuc, a local living in Tay Son Ward, An Khe Town, near An Khe power plant said since early February 2011 the stench coming from the Ba River had made his family sick.

"The water looks like mud. It's really a dead river," said Phuc.

"The river is the catchment area for untreated discharged water and solid waste from the An Khe sugar mill, Ve Yu manioc plant and MDF saw mill."

Phuc said shrimp, fish and molluscs had died in great quantities in the river.

In addition, the embankments had become a dumping sites for dead chickens and pigs by local inhabitants during a recent outbreak of H5N1 and foot and mouth diseases.

In an attempt to clean up the Ba River, local authorities in An Khe Town have mobilised thousands of people to clean up the river and its embankments and spray disinfectant. Yet the stench coming from the river remains.

People living in An Khe and Dak Po have many times asked the local authorities and the media to take action to save the river.

According to Dang Thi Yen, director of the An Khe Natural Resources and Environment Sub-Department, there were three causes leading to the problem: the huge amount of household waste and dead poultry dumped upstream; waste water discharged into the river without treatment from the sugar and manioc plants and the saw mill; and An Khe and Ka Nat reservoirs with a total capacity of 300 millioncubic metres have dried the downriver stretch in An Khe.

In addition, extreme weather this year is also to be blamed for the worsening situation in An Khe. Water upstream is diverted to run electricity turbines making the river's downstream flow extremely weak and the portion at An Khe Town has become almost dead.

Le Trung Van, director of the Gia Lai Department of Natural Resources and Environment said a recent water quality check of some portions of the Ba River by his staff showed that the waste water discharged to the river surpassed the permissible level.

"The investigation team found that the water in the Ba River and the discharged water into the river from surrounding factories was seriously contaminated with organic matter, micro organisms, oil and diesel," said Van.

He said highly contaminated water from the Ba river could not be used for daily activities or irrigation. With aquatic products and water vegetables unable to live in such contaminated environment.

Van said his department had asked the Gia Lai People's Committee to send an official letter to the An Khe-Ka Nat Hydro Power Management Board to maintain a minimum water flow of 4cu.m per second in the portion behind An Khe dam.

He said "In the feasibility study before constructing the dam, the project board said one of the objectives of the reservoir was to regulate water for farming activities during the dry season."

According to officials from the Gia Lai Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the only way to save the Ba River was to open the An Khe reservoir gates to clean the contaminated water at the portions of An Khe, Dak Po and Kong Chro.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News