The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mui Ne Beach Gossip: Look What’s Washing Up

A couple of weeks ago Mui Ne’s midsection suffered another bout of serious erosion and lost a bit of its beachfront.

We’ve all seen what washes up on a regular basis—piles of garbage, bags and bags of old cloths, medical waste, dead animals, fruit rinds… need I say more?

This time a local property found something a bit more unusual. By all accounts, it looked like a UXO, or rather a grenade of some sort.

The local police were called, who referred the situation to the army. A few members of the army did arrive but the object in question was thrown back into the ocean – definitely not what had been expected to happen!

At the time there was genuine concern about somebody on the beach finding it and something terrible happening (if in fact it was an explosive devise).

Given the fact it was a Saturday (and the Army don’t apparently operate on weekends) it was obviously a lot faster for them to throw it back in the water and pretend to forget about it then remove it properly.

Its nobody’s fault that this object washed up where it did, whatever it was. The handling of it seems rather inappropriate however.

Look Mommy, Tommy Glows in the Dark!

There’s been much discussion in the Vietnamese media, thankfully, about the Titanium mining controversy in this province. It’s my understanding from what I’ve read, and I might not be entirely correct, that all large building projects on the coast must first have their land surveyed for mining potential. So much for a province that supposedly puts its tourism industry first.

The local papers have talked about some of the problems the mining has caused—it has brought about the delay or outright cancelation of more than one resort project.

The miners have also allegedly (according to newspapers) destroyed the water table in what was the most fragile and arid ecosystem in Southeast Asia by pumping seawater into the very limited groundwater supply. Now families must be relocated because there is no more groundwater where this has been done (and the mining covers kilometers and kilometers of coastline).

While news stories make vague references to additional pollutants, nobody ever gets specific about what these pollutants are. A search finally turned up a few things.

Titanium mining releases radiation into the environment. Specifically, the sands where titanium is found tend to also include Uranium, thorium, and radium. I don’t have any data on just how radioactive titanium sludge might be from local mining, but online sources such as the US Environmental Protection Agency seem to suggest high levels of radiation from Titanium mining wastes can be up to 450 times more radioactive than “normal” soil samples. However radioactive the mining around Mui Ne might be, I think it would be a good idea to do some testing and inform the public.

Swimming in a Milkshake

Again, most of us living in Mui ne have seen the wastewater being pumped onto the beach by a variety of resorts, bars and restaurants. Most of it is just grey water—the stuff washed out of sinks and showers. Occasionally, as I think we all know, it is raw sewage—especially the stuff that’s pumped into the bushes across the street when septic tanks get full.

Not to be outdone however is the Ca Ty River in Phan Thiet. This year—or was it last year—on two separate occasions the national newspapers posted photos of our dirty river and all the sludge floating out to the bay.

I was disgusted to find a study posted online, commissioned by the government about 5-6 years ago, of all the urban rivers along Vietnam’s coast. The study included data on coliform and ecoli counts. Counts for coliform were in the tens of millions. If I’m not mistaken, a mere 300 in many western countries is enough to shut a beach down.

This isn’t to say our beach has levels like that. There’s some distance between the Ca Ty River and Mui ne (It does probably suggest that Doi Duong Municipal Beach in Phan Thiet should be roped off). However Mui Ne should be tested immediately… and lets just say that previous anomalies in water testing at the “official” lab in Phan Thiet suggest water should be tested by an independent source outside the area.

Heads in the Sand

All of this going on and nothing being done about it. There was a National Geographic Traveler magazine article a few months that rated Mui Ne and Nha Trang as “one of the world’s worst beaches” (as thought Nha Trang and Mui Ne aren’t 6hrs apart—or any of the judges has ever even been to Vietnam). It definitely ruffled the feathers of officials in Nha Trang. They are reacting, though we can debate whether their plans help or do more harm than good. Curiously however, Binh Thuan didn’t make so much as a peep about the article. One wonders how bad the pollution has to get before we decide to do something.


Owen said...

Nha Trang is all up in arms because they have put a lot of effort into beautifying the beaches and it shows. It is not the messy beach of just a couple of years ago. All of the photo's in that article were of The Mui Ne area. Had Nha Trang been ranked independently, the outcome may have been very different.

Adam Bray said...

I agree that Mui ne deserved more of the criticism in that article than Nha Trang ended up with. Tuoi Tre had quite an unflattering article about Nha Trang today though:

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