08/17/2017, 17.22
VIETNAM

Church against the pollution of Montagnard water resources in Kon Tum

by Nguyen Hung

Unfettered industrial development and the lack of government enforcement of environmental protection threaten the existence of local tribal communities. "Many children have contracted scabies. Adults are pale," said the local diocese’s charity and social committee. Local authorities confirm that "about 80 per cent of the poor are affected by illnesses due to contaminated water." Local clergymen and nuns are very aware of the importance of environmental protection for the health of local communities. Water contamination is a growing problem in the region.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – In Vietnam’s mountainous Central Highlands (Tây Nguyên), water pollution is a serious threat to the environment and to health of the local indigenous population, the Montagnards.

The diocese of Kon Tum, whose territory includes the homonymous province and that of Gialai, is involved in a number of social and charitable activities to counter the problem.

In Kon Tum, the Catholic community is made up of people from 40 distinct ethnic groups, including the Bahnar, Jơrai, Sê Đăng, Rơgao, Ymenling, and Kinh, who account for about half of the diocese’s 290,000 Catholics.

Since ancient times, the Montagnards have relied on the drinking water flowing from the rivers and streams that abound in the hills of Central Vietnam.

However, due to unfettered industrialisation and the lack of governmental environmental protection, water pollution threatens the existence of local communities.  In view of the situation, the Diocese of Kon Tum is committed to countering water pollution.

"Many children have contracted scabies. Adults are pale," said the diocese’s charity and social committee. Local authorities confirm that "about 80 per cent of the poor is affected by illnesses due to contaminated water."

Local clergymen and nuns are very aware of the importance of environmental protection for the health of local communities. For this reason, they have been teaching the Montagnards about water purification. Fr Peter Nguyễn Vân Đông wrote a report on the diocese’s social activities titled "How did the diocese of Kon Tum helps the poor?"

"We have been busy helping the poor have clean water, for drinking and cooking,” he notes. “The first thing we showed them is how to bring mountain water to the villages, since upstream water is always cleaner. The second thing we helped get was water purification plants. The third, the simplest, is to boil it."

"At present, many Montagnard villages still do not have clean water to drink,” he explains. “They do not even have enough water to bathe and wash their things. Residents are forced to make long treks to get water. In addition, many streams are dry.”

For this reason, the committee is very concerned about the villagers and has been conducting educational activities to raise awareness about environmental protection in remote mountainous tribal communities.

Water contamination is a growing problem in the region. Since a plant processing cassava roots began operation in Phương Hoa on 11 June, residents in Đăk Sút village (Đăk Glei district) can no longer use their wells. Local authorities say they have not yet identified the causes of the pollution, leaving a solution to the problem for later.

Mr In Hoàng, a resident of Đăk Sút, spoke to a Kon Tum newspaper. "My family dug a well in 2005. It is about 12 metres deep. In the past, my well and those of the neighbours were normal. Since the plant opened, it is no longer possible to drink the water, not even to use it to bathe or wash clothes."

In the city of Kon Tum, water contamination is caused by an illegal landfill near one of the plants of the Mtv Limited Liability Company. The company supplies drinking water to the whole of Kon Tum province.

City residents don’t throw away only food waste, but also all kinds of rubbish, from animal carcasses and pesticide bottles. The mountain of garbage leaches into nearby waterways, such as the Đăk Bla river.

Even in Gialai province, rubbish has polluted aquifers. Yet, many farmers in rural areas continue to use the dirty water.

"Many people are now suffering from urinary infections and kidney disease," said Mr Trương Đức, a resident of Hbông.

People’s Committee President Ðoàn Văn T confirms that "Hbông water is no longer usable", noting that "some wells are also dry due to drought and deforestation."

Water sources in the area’s industrial zones are among the most polluted. The Ba River once supplied clean water to the people of An Khê. But in recent years, its waters have become muddy, smelly, and toxic, due to sugar factories in the area.

For Mr Thọ, "although water is treated by purifiers, residents refuse to use it and prefer to dig wells."

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