HANOI - The lack of clean water was affecting 1 million Vietnamese each year, the Government's portal chinhphu.vn reported from a conference held in Ha Noi on Thursday.
The conference was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, who stressed on the need for tightening control over the quality of drinking and domestic-use water so that people were no longer afraid of being diagnosed with cancer or other diseases while using tap water.
Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said at the conference entitled, "Strengthening interdisciplinary and international collaboration for controlling drinking and domestic-use water quality," that 80 per cent of urban citizens had access to the Health Ministry-acknowledged clean water.
"In rural areas, it is said that 85 per cent of the population has access to useable water but only 42 per cent get ministry-recognised clean water," Long said.
His report, which was read out at the conference, also brought together international diplomats of countries and organisations that sponsor water supply projects in Viet Nam. The report indicated that about 250,000 people contract acute diarrhoea caused by use of contaminated water in the country annually.
"Over the last four years, some 6 million people have suffered from diseases due to the shortage of clean water," Long said.
An inspection held nationwide last year found that 21.6 per cent of the larger-capacity water plants (more than 1,000 cubic meters/day-night) and 27.4 per cent of the smaller-capacity plants (less than 1,000 cubic meters) offered water of substandard quality, which was contaminated with micro-organisms, organic substances and higher-than-permissible heavy metal content.
Deputy PM Dam pointed out that it was necessary to identify the point at which tap water was getting contaminated, at the source, in storage tanks or in delivery pipes, citing the fact that water pipes in many cities had been in use for decades and could have decayed, which could be the cause for contamination of water.
He also ordered that checks be conducted to test tap water quality in each of these segments (in the entire flow of tap water) the results of which would be disclosed for a timely remedy.
The Deputy PM also affirmed that laboratories and testing centres for water quality across the country were completely capable of offering reliable water quality tests.
"What is needed is detailed guidance for them, not additional investment," he said.
A diplomat from the Australian Embassy in Viet Nam shared a good practice from a project financed by Australia in Vinh Phuc Province, whereby locals were provided with water filters and were trained to develop the habit of taking a sample of domestic use water to a test centre every six months.
The project's implication was so far-reaching that thousands of households near the project had followed suit, the diplomat said.
Meanwhile, representatives of the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children Fund suggested that authorities should conduct regular checks of water supply plants and pipes.
They also suggested the involvement of the private sector in checking water quality, as well as increasing the delivery of low-cost water-treatment equipment to households.