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Archived News: Binh Thuan Climate,
Mui Ne Weather, Environmental Issues

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Local Water Testing Results Examined

A set of recent water tests cause questions to come bubbling up. This is part one in a new series on local water issues.

Current Regulations

21.12.10 The Phan Thiet government currently requires Mui Ne hotels and resorts using well water to test their wells every six months and submit these results. According to local government standards, well water levels of coliform bacteria must be 3 (CFU or MPN)/100 ml or less. E. coli must be at a count of 0 (CFU or MPN)/100 ml (CFU stands for “Colony forming unit” and MPN for “Most Probably Number”. The units are used interchangeably, however MPN indicates an indirect method was used to measure bacteria counts, while CFU is a more exact count of only viable bacteria cells).

Contradictory Results for Test Samples

Test 1
A well water sample from a property in Mui Ne (Ham Tien) was recently tested at Binh Thuan’s Department of Standardization Metrology and Quality (Department of Testing Quality). This is a government-run lab. Previous samples from the location had always tested at zero for E. coli and coliform bacteria.

Curiously, the new test results were off the charts. The coliform was more than 10,000 MPN/100ml (again, the limit is a grand total of 3 units). The E. Coli was 3 MPN/100ml, which we take to mean more than 2 units but not quite 3 (the maximum allowable rating, according to local regulation, is zero). The E. Coli levels may not be suitable for use at an individual resort by local regulations, but in western countries, the general coliform count could be enough to shut down our whole beach for further testing. Troubling.

Test 2
A second sample from the same property was taken to an independent lab in HCMC. Very different results were found. The same water source, which had just tested off the charts in Phan Thiet, now tested again for zero coliform and zero E. Coli. Strange.

Consequences

So what would be the consequences for a tourism facility that submitted the first test results from the government-run lab? They would be costly. The government would turn off the well and force the facility to use Phan Thiet Municipal Water. This would cost, on average, 30,000,000VND/month (about US$1,500) for a medium-sized resort or similar tourism facility. This doesn’t include extra costs for the facility to make up for shortcomings in the municipal water system. As the city water pressure is so low, and itself considered unsuitable by many local residents, additional water tanks and pressure systems would have to be purchased for any given property.

City Water Fails to Meet Government Standards

A third sample was tested. This time an unidentified sample of Phan Thiet City Municipal Water was sent to the Binh Thuan’s Department of Standardization Metrology and Quality, Department of Testing Quality. Coliform levels tested at more than 450 CFU/100ml and E. Coli at less than 3 (but more than 2) CFU/100ml. While significantly better than the first well water test at the same government lab, it is still below the government’s own standards. According to current regulations, the city water is contaminated and unsuitable for use at tourism facilities.

Questions Remain

Our water tests raise a number of questions and concerns. Why were our test results different at each lab? Are the Binh Thuan lab’s test results accurate? And why is the city water so contaminated?

We hope these questions will lead to further testing by other parties to ensure current procedures are accurate, and that municipal water meets current standards.

Binh Thuan's Nature Reserves Being Decimated

Logging in Nui Ong

Logging tracks in Nui Ong10.06.09 We recently made a trip to Nui Ong Nature Reserve, about 2.5 hrs northwest of Phan Thiet. While the insects, birdlife, flowers and other flora and fauna were amazing (see them in our blog), it was still very sad to see how much this Nature Reserve is being actively decimated by what appears to be illegal logging and poaching. We followed logging trails (right) to find trucks hauling out truckloads of bamboo (top) for construction. The forest was full of hunting camps (below) where locals stayed while they poached and apparently smoked meat from wildlife they caught. Large tracts of land were cleared by the local Rai minority to turn into farmland. It's a wonder whether anything will be left of the forest at all in the next 5-10 years.

Hunting Camps in Nui Ong

Click here for more information on Nui Ong Nature Reserve in Binh Thuan Province.

Local Seafood Plants Polluting the Bay

05.09.09 The following story is an excerpt from an 21 August report by Que Ha for the Thanh Nien News Agency. The whole story can be read here. The Phu Hai river mentioned is in a neighborhood located between Mui Ne (Ham Tien) and Phan Thiet (Phu Thuy). Pollution in the Phu Hai River, among other sources, results in periodic red tides in Mui Ne, and regular discolloration of the water, as well as garbage on the beach. Begin excerpt:

Nguyen Ngoc Hai, director of the Binh Thuan Province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said pollution at the Phu Hai Seafood Village along the Phu Hai River in Phan Thiet, a popular resort town in Binh Thuan, was “extremely serious.” A large amount of fish and shrimp had been killed by the waste near the river’s mouth, according to local authorities and residents.

“It would be odd if a fish could survive this kind of pollution,” said local resident Huynh Thi Tra, 73.

The factories discharge untreated wastewater into the river, Tra said as she showed Thanh Nien the dense black wastewater flowing out of a pipe from the Phu Hai seafood village into a canal that flows into the Cai River.

“This site makes strangers want to throw up,” Tra said.

A tourist named Lan from Ho Chi Minh City said she couldn’t bear the odor even though she just passed through the area for several minutes. “I don’t know how people living here can stand it.”

Le Thi Nhu Den lives on the canal but has sent her children to their grandmother’s as the factories were running at full capacity during the height of the fishing season.

“The kids usually get sick and I don’t know what to do.”

Phu Hai seafood village first made headlines last October as factories producing fish sauce and anchovy products were found discharging untreated effluents into the Phu Hai River.

Provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment reported at the time that none of the 250 fish sauce firms in Phan Thiet had ever built waste treatment plants.

The provincial government then said it would suspend any factory that hadn’t built a treatment plant by the end of last year.

But no plants have been built more than eight months after the deadline.

Mui Ne Afflited by Red Tide Again

Mui Ne Afflicted by Red Tide Again

04.09.09 This weekend Mui Ne suffered again from a massive algal bloom, turning the bay a deep orange color. The cause is likely the torrential rains from the recent typhoon, as they wash pollutants off the developments around Mui Ne and Phan Thiet. The area suffers from significant pollution problems due to the many resorts pumping greywater directly onto the beach, and other venues that dump raw sewage on the land adjascent. Likewise, the rivers in Phan Thiet and Mui Ne village fishin harbor have become a virtual garbage disposal, making some areas of the beach unswimmable on a regular basis, due to large concentrations of garbage.

Victoria Strives to Make a Difference

Victoria Resort

Victoria Resort01.10.08 On Saturday, September 27, the staff of Victoria Phan Thiet Beach Resort & Spa was seen up and down the highway, cleaning the roadsides as part of Victoria's 5th annual "Green Day". On that day, there were clean-up campaigns sponsored by all 6 properties throughout the region, trying to raise environmental awareness and making people think about keeping their surroundings clean. We salute Victoria for striving to make a difference in the local community.

Victoria Resort
Photos courtesy of Hanno Stramm

Red Tide Hits Phan Thiet Hard This Summer

17.07.08 For the past month, red algae has inundated the beaches around Phan Thiet. Algal blooms have been a yearly occurrence due to increasing pollution and rising water temperatures, but previous blooms have only lasted about a week during the month of June. The toxins produces by the algae, phaeocystis globosa, causes skin irritation among swimmers, and in past years have killed up to 90% of sea organisms in the surrounding area.

Vietnam's beach resort areas--particularly Nha Trang, Mui Ne and Vung Tau, have suffered increased degradation in the last 5 years due to unplanned development, erosion, pollution, oil spills, and harmful fishing practices (including the use of dynamite and cyanide). Endangered species like sea turtle and dugong also continue to find their way into local markets, along with shark’s fin and vast quantities of reef animals, used in traditional medicine. If Vietnam does not take immediate measures to control the environmental degradation, it is likely to have significant impacts on tourism in the next 5 years.

Hagibis Heading North

23.11.07 Tropical Storm Hagibis appears to be heading North and may no longer head directly for Phan Thiet. Strong winds, rain high waves are still expected for the weekend. Visitors should monitor weather reports for their safety and convenience, as the storm direction and strength may continue to change.

Typhoon Expected to Hit Phan Thiet This Weekend

22.11.07 Vietnam has asked nearby countries to give shelter to thousands of fishermen from tropical storm Hagibis, now moving though the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea. Nearly 74,000 fishermen were working off Vietnam's coast in the path of the Storm on Wednesday.

Hagibis is expected to land on Phan Thiet (Mui Ne) over the weekend, augmented by an exceptionally large high tide.

It poses a major danger to southern Vietnam, a region rarely struck by typhoons or tropical storms. The southern tip of Vietnam was hit in November, 1997 by Typhoon Linda, with as many as 2,123 people killed or never accounted for.

Binh Thuan Receives More Drought Aid

14.06.07 Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed a decision on Wednesday to allocate VND33.7 billion (US$205,000) to aid seven drought-hit provinces. Binh Thuan (where Mui Ne is located), with some of the driest spots in S.E. Asia, will receive VND3 billion.

Drought Again in Binh Thuan Province

Binh Thuan Desert28.03.07 A drought since last fall is devastating the lives of thousands of poor people in rural areas of Binh Thuan province. Many people are thirsty as wells have run dry and crops have been severely damaged because clean water supplies are not enough to serve the nearly 4,000 households and 5.5 thousand hectares of crops in four districts across the province.

Local authorities in Tuy Phong, Bac Binh, and Ham Thuan Bac districts plan to transport clean water to the area by tankers. The province will also dredge the La Nga River and drill artesian wells to search for additional water.

Intense drought has become a recurring part of the yearly climate cycle in the last decade. During dry season both crops and livestock die off as lakes and rivers dry up and sand storms sweep across the countryside. The desertification of Binh Thuan has received some local press within VN and even caught the attention of UNESCO, yet international press and foreign environmental groups have yet to notice the immergence of S.E. Asia's first desert region.

Disaster and Development in La Gi, Binh Thuan

17.03.06 Intense erosion and sea encroachment in La Gi Township (South of Phan Thiet, at Ham Tan) has prompted the local People’s Committee to begin rezoning a resettlement area for more than 130 households. Building in the area will start immediately upon receiving the proper approval by authorities.

The intense drought followed by flash-flooding in out-of-season rains has taken a toll on residents living on the coast of Binh Thuan. Since last November, strong winds and big waves have caused flooding and landslides. About 400m of land has been lost to the sea.

Each household will receive VND3 million from the provincial budget, and poor households will get VND6 million for building new houses. The township has also given 10kg of rice and VND200,000 to each household. While a generous gift from local authorities, these funds are unlikely to cover the essential costs of relocating, building new homes and establishing new livelihoods for the victims.

In unrelated news, the Vietnam-America Titan Dioxide Joint Venture Co. began construction on Tuesday of a dioxide powder factory in La Gi. The factory will start production on March 2007. Titan (Titanium) Dioxide is an essential ingredient used for white pigments in paint, plastic and cosmetics. Phan Thiet, La Gi and Phan Ri Cua (to the north), respectively, are the three most important ports in Binh Thuan Province.

Strong Waves and Floods
to Greet the New Year in Mui Ne

20.01.06 The Binh Thuan province hydrometeorology station is warning that floods caused by rough seas will hit the province close to Tet at the end of January. Waves were also a serious problem a few months ago when damage displaced 330 families. Binh Thuan’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development suggests using sandbags and embankments to limit the damage.

Drought and Deluge

10.01.06 Tuy Phong District authorities in North Eastern Binh Thuan Province have asked provincial authorities to help relocate 122 families and assist 1190 people in the district. Their lives have been disrupted and their home destroyed by floods that have also spread disease and pollution. The unusually high levels of rain at the end of the rainy season came after a year of severe drought.

Meanwhile, to the South West, the province is spending 70 billion VND ($4.4 million USD) to supply water to an area vulnerable to desertification. Water will be pumped from a local river into Hoa Thang and Hong Phong wards in Bac Binh commune, near the White Sand Dunes.

Another project to protect soil and water resources and stay the current trend of desertification is also underway on a trial basis in Hong Phong ward. The dunes area has limited rainfall and no underground water sources, rivers or streams.

The project is financed by the UNDP Global Environment Fund and began in April 2005. Its completion is scheduled for April 2008. If the project is successful, it will be introduced to other areas in the province that are prone to drought.

UNESCO Reports Artificial Aquifer Recharge
for White Sand Dunes Area

Adam's 6 Color Hill, Bau Trang04.12.05 The Jakarta office of Unesco is reporting that a program for artificial aquifer recharge in Hong Phong, Bac Binh District, in the area near the White Sand Dunes (Bau Trang), is under way. The program is sponsored by the Vietnamese Government, UNESCO, International Council for Science, and the Italian Ministry for the Environment and Territory. The process captures water which would otherwise be lost to run-off and evaporation, and infuses it back into the groundwater.

Before 1975, much of the province was covered in dense tropical forests, which were clear-cut to make room for rice fields which were never developed. In many sites, poor choices of crop types unsuitable for the soil and environmental conditions failed. Massive desertification resulted, causing dune areas to expand greatly.

The province receives 1150 mm/year of rain on average. A four-month period from December to March is characterized by very little precipitation (about 23 mm). The area of Hong Phong is the driest part of Vietnam, with the annual rainfall ranging less than 500 mm/yr. The area suffers considerable drought during the dry season, which was never experienced prior the complete removal of forest. With no ground cover, intense heat, and sand soils, surface water evaporates quickly. The 2005 dry season expereinced intense heat and winds in the province, and many cattle and trees died. Sand storms sweapt through the countriside for a brief period.

The resort area of Mui Ne is fortunate to be vitually immune from the droubt problems during dry season. A microclimate creates an oasis along the beach where the dunes act as a buffer and wind blocker to trap moisture in the humid air, and natural spring waters flow in streams out to the sea. Developers must be careful to observe past mistakes in the province and preserve the trees and groundcover that exists in Mui Ne. Without the groves of coconut palms, bananas trees and other plants found here, Mui Ne would likely become a barren desert landscape.

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