Vietnam moves to clean up its wastewater

December 2, 2021
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Water and wastewater technology represent a key sector for the state of Wisconsin. Milwaukee, home to the Global Water Center, is a mecca for water-related business and research.

Water collection, drainage and wastewater treatment are priorities of Vietnam’s government, as evidenced by the number of projects in that sector. Currently, 50 wastewater treatment plants, with a total capacity of about 1.8 million cubic meters per day, are being designed and built, according to a recent news article in the state-owned newspaper SGGP.

An example of a major project already underway is the $688 million USD Yen Xa wastewater treatment plant in Hanoi with a capacity of 270,000 cubic meters per day, set for completion in 2022. Another is the $223 million USD Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe wastewater treatment plant in Ho Chi Minh City with a peak capacity of 34,000 cubic meters per hour, expected to be completed by 2024. A Japanese firm, JFE Engineering, is building the Yen Xa plant, while a partnership between Acciona Agua, of Spain, and VINCI Construction, of France, has the contract for the Ho Chi Minh City plant.

These projects seek to address challenges posed by the country’s rapid urbanization and industrialization. Most wastewater from households has been left untreated and is discharged directly into canals. In fact, only 46% of urban households have connections to drainage systems and only about 12.5% of municipal wastewater is treated. The country’s urban population is predicted to rise from 35 million people in 2015 to 52 million in 2025, and over the next 15 years, urban locations are expected to be the top source of wastewater in Vietnam, comprising 60% of the total. The amount of investment needed for urban wastewater drainage and treatment is about $8 billion to $10 billion USD, according to the Vietnam Water Supply and Sewerage Association, as cited in a news report in November 2021.

Meanwhile, about two-thirds of wastewater from industrial zones is treated, but only 9.4% of industrial clusters have central wastewater treatment facilities. Elsewhere, treatment is rarely available. Most wastewater from 5,000 traditional craft villages, some factories outside of industrial zones, and local hospitals and private clinics is discharged untreated into rivers, lakes and oceans. Vietnam is just beginning to address this issue as it aims to become a modern, industrialized economy by 2035.

The agricultural sector also produces vast quantities of waste, with some 95% of livestock waste generated each year entering the environment untreated and carrying nutrients, pathogens and volatile compounds. Vietnamese farmers use approximately 11 million tons of fertilizer annually, of which only about 45-50% are used effectively, while the rest is washed away in runoff.

These gaps present opportunities for Wisconsin suppliers, as the majority of the water and wastewater equipment in Vietnam is imported, including advanced membranes and filters.

In addition to contributing to large-scale, centralized facilities, another key opportunity for water and wastewater suppliers from Wisconsin is in the provision of decentralized systems. Due to chronic underinvestment in centralized systems, only eight urban areas in Vietnam have centralized wastewater treatment plants, mainly in big cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Da Lat. Even in the country’s most famous island destination, Phu Quoc, there is no centralized sewage treatment plant yet. Activated sludge-based treatment and biological filtration are among the most commonly used technologies in Vietnam for decentralized wastewater treatment systems, and their capacity usually is less than 1,000 cubic meters per day.

Another opportunity is in Vietnam’s industrial sector, which generates huge volumes of highly polluting and difficult-to-treat wastewater. Food processing is the largest user of water treatment. However, the market is competitive, as evident from the turnout in Vietnam’s annual premier water and wastewater trade show, Vietwater. More than 400 companies from all over the world—including Australia, China, Denmark, England, France, Germany and South Korea—exhibited at the pre-pandemic Vietwater 2019.

Wisconsin’s in-market representative in Vietnam can help exporters navigate the market through a range of services—from consultation to market research to making connections with environmental contractors, funding agencies and end-customers in Vietnam.


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