Green Denmark in Southeast Asia
Flood Control, Wastewater Management and Climate Change Adaption in Ho Chi Minh City & Mekong Delta
Updated: Jan 20, 2021
Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam, is forecast to be one of the top 10 cities in the world threatened by climate change. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta is seen as one of the world’s three most vulnerable deltas to the sea level rising.
Not only is Ho Chi Minh City facing serious challenges regarding flood control and wastewater treatment, other areas in Vietnam in particularly the Mekong Delta region are experiencing flood, seawater intrusion deep into the mainland, decline of groundwater, as well as rising sea level that has affected agriculture production, clean water supply and people’s daily life.
Ho Chi Minh City is planning to build 12 wastewater treatment plants; by far, only three are in place treating around 13% of the total wastewater generated. The city has spent over 5,400 billion VND (equivalent to US$ 240 million) on flood control projects in the period of 2016 – 2020; nevertheless, the results are still very limited. It is estimated that over 2 billion USD will be needed for the improvement of flood control and wastewater management system of the city. The newly passed Public Private Partnership (PPP) law by the National Assembly of Vietnam shall set fundamental basis to facilitate the participation of private investors.
There have been works on sustainable planning for wastewater management, flood control and water supply in Mekong Delta provinces for over 13 million inhabitants. This region is Vietnam’s third most invested region, accounting for 18% of the total investment for development of the whole country.
Current Situation and new Developments of Wastewater Treatment and Drainage System in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City discharges 1,400,000m³ of wastewater everyday but only 190.000m³ are treated, less than 13% of the city’s total wastewater. Therefore, there are 1,5 million cubic metres of unprocessed sewage directly dump into rivers and canals every day.
In 2020, less than 15% of the population is connected to a sewerage network and treatment plant. Canals in HCMC and the Saigon River received about 90% of untreated domestic wastewater in 2016 (Nguyen et al., 2020). The risk of estuary pollution in Saigon River is expected to increase in the coming years, under the impact of megacity’s development. Following the actual trend, the population of Ho Chi Minh City is expected to reach 23 million by 2050, and the Saigon River will then receive three times more pollution (Nguyen et al., 2020).
Waterways throughout Ho Chi Minh City are burdened with thousands of tons of waste and large amounts of untreated wastewater despite the city heavily investing in canal protection every year.
According to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DONRE) of Vietnam, by far the city has built and completed three centralized wastewater treatment plants including:
i) Binh Hung - phase 1, with a capacity of 141,000 m³ / day;
ii) Binh Hung Hoa with a capacity of 30,000 m³ / day;
iii) Tham Luong - Ben Cat with a capacity of 131,000 m³ / day.
Two plants namely Binh Hung and Binh Hung Hoa are in full operation, whilst Tham Luong - Ben Cat is only partially operating with a capacity of 15,000 m3 / day.
Ho Chi Minh City also sets a target of a 90 percent reduction in surface water emissions in the 2016-2020 period of the Environmental Pollution Reduction Program. The city has implemented many solutions in the past, such as dredging rivers and canals, calling on people not to discharge garbage into canals, but due to many difficulties, it is impossible to achieve the objective.
According to Decision 24/QĐ-TTg on 06 January 2010 holds the master plan of Ho Chi Minh City following wastewater management projects.
The biggest obstacle for the wastewater treatment system in Ho Chi Minh City to move forward relates to financial factors. Many potential investors have been waiting for a new pricing scheme for drainage and wastewater treatment services so that the projects become financially sustainable.
Recently, Ho Chi Minh City proposed to collect a drainage service fee of 1,430 VND/m3 from now to 2024, an average increase of 5% / year. The Department of Construction has proposed 3 plans to collect drainage fees, of which the medium increase 5% of the annual average price is assessed feasible: In 2020, the State collects the environmental protection fee equal to 10% of the clean water price, by 2021 will collect the drainage service price equal to 15% of the clean water price, equivalent to 1,439 VND / m3; By 2024, the drainage service charge will be 35% of the clean water price, equivalent to VND 4,327 / m3. The revenue from the drainage service will be remitted to the budget for the investment, maintenance and development of the drainage system, after deducting 1% for the service payment to collect and pay taxes and financial obligations, if any.
The proposal is being reviewed by the relevant Government bodies before the decision is made.
Situation in Mekong Delta Region
With the current prolonged practicing of disposing domestic wastewater directly into canals and creeks, it is predicted that if there are no efficient solutions on the wastewater sanitation, in the near future, there will be regions in Vietnam to be filled with unusable water due to contamination, especially in canals and creeks.
Vietnam invests about 150 million USD per year in wastewater management. Currently, there are two wastewater treatment facilities in Can Tho province, one of them is in Tra Noc Industrial Park, and is the largest of its kind in the Mekong Delta.
For the Mekong Delta region, the domestic wastewater treatment technologies to be applied are quite diverse, from low energy use such as Primary sedimentation (Soc Trang), Wastewater Stabilization Ponds (An Giang), to energy-intensive technology such as Oxidation ditch and Sequential Batch Reactor (Huyen, Lai, 2019).
Chart 1: Number of wastewater treatment plants and total treatment capacity in Mekong River Delta Region
The Trade Council in Vietnam has engaged with the authorities and stakeholders in a number of Mekong Delta provinces to learn about opportunities and challenges for Danish companies.
Get in touch for more information about business opportunities in Vietnam:
Tran Thi Tuyet Mai
Head of the Danish Economic and Commercial Office in Ho Chi Minh City – Embassy of Denmark in Vietnam
Join Green Denmark in Southeast Asia
 “Ho Chi Minh City: Why is wastewater still flowing into the river?” (in Vietnamese language) (tuoitre.vn)
 “Flood management in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam” (in Vietnamese language) (royalhaskoningdhv.com)
 “Flood protection for Ho Chi Minh City: How much money is enough?” (in Vietnamese language) (cand.com.vn)
 “New climate change action plan maps out most vulnerable neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh City” (in Vietnamese language) | Tuoi Tre News - vietnamlife.tuoitrenews.vn  “Ho Chi Minh City to improve solutions to climate change response” (in Vietnamese language) | Inquirer News
 “Ho Chi Minh City hopes to prevent flooding” (in Vietnamese language)