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Livestock, aquaculture waste threaten rural environment

The indiscriminate use of fertilisers, untreated livestock waste and wastewater pose a threat to rural areas, according to the 2014 National Environment Report.

Farmers use six times more phosphate and potash than recommended in rice farming, the report released yesterday by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said.

Trees absorb 40 to 50 per cent of fertiliser used around them, while the rest remains in the ground.

The report also said livestock farming offers high incomes, but discharges more harmful waste.

About 1,700 out of the country’s 23,500 livestock farms build waste treatment systems – meaning the vast majority allow untreated waste to flow directly into canals, streams and rivers.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Directorate of Fisheries said in the report that shrimp farmers released 83,000 tonnes of nitrogen and 26,000 tonnes of phosphorus into the environment.

The report also evaluated the quality of water in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region, which is declining due to wastewater discharged from tra and basa fish farms.

Emerging issue

Hoang Duong Tung, deputy head of the Viet Nam Environment Administration and an author of the report, said the ministry had the report focus on the environment in rural areas because it was an emerging issue.

Tung said rural environments were threatened by a range of activities, like farming, livestock, aquacuture, waste management, trade and industrial production.

The report was compiled to show policymakers and experts the threats rural areas faced, Tung said. It also focused on how pollution in rural areas affected human health and socio-economic development.

The ministry suggested the National Assembly and the Government pour more financial support into protecting rural areas from pollution, Tung said. Solid waste and wastewater treatment needed to be given first priority. But local communities also needed to work to protect their own environment.

At the launching ceremony yesterday, participants also gave the ministry ideas and suggestions.

Pham Quang Ha, of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the report should include more details about biodiversity in rural areas.

Pham To Oanh of the Viet Nam Co-operative Alliance said the report did not mention the role of co-operatives in environmental protection, though the country has more than 20,000 of them. 

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