Saving the Hoan Kiem Turtle is simpler than you think

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Báo Thanh Niên English - 84 month(s) ago 3 readings

Dear Editor:

The world now knows the plight of Vietnam's sacred turtle struggling to survive in polluted Hoan Kiem Lake. The turtle's suffering need not to be the "price of progress" as Hanoi grows. There is a relatively simple and inexpensive solution which can greatly improve the water quality of the lake, while long term solutions to Hanoi's growing pollution problems are solved.

The process, developed by a Canadian company, BactaPur, involves sprinkling safe, natural enzymes on the water, as well as installing a simple network of compressed air pumps to aerate the water, providing oxygen. The enzymes consume the pollution sludge at the bottom of the lake and the air bubbles provide oxygen to the water, much like in a home aquarium.

Within weeks the water will clear up and the turtle's chances of survival will be greatly increased. When the continuing pollution of the lake from the surrounding area is dealt with, the lake can taken off "life support" and return, once again, to the healthy lake it was for hundreds of years.

Here are the comments of the expert from the company, which studied the lake 12 years ago:

In the various news stories I have read about the problem there, it seems that there was no analysis whatsoever about the water conditions. There is a lot of written information about the “mud” which is being removed - while it is potentially possible that this is actually mud, I doubt it - believe it is more than likely a thick layer of organic wastes – namely what we call sludge.

The US$2 million that is being spent is such a complete and total waste of money - I don’t see how the project could possibly cost that much.

Another point I noted in the news stories I have read is that they are estimating the depth of the lake at 0.4 meters. If this is an accurate measurement, it means that in the past 12 or so years the lake has gone from a then 1.5-meter average depth to a 0.4-meter depth… this is a symptom of eutrification (or europhication – the addition of artificial or natural substances to an aquatic system) and further indication of ever worsening conditions of the water in the lake. With the coming of summer and increased heat, it can be anticipated that dissolved oxygen in the lake will drop significantly and that this will further reduce the ability for the turtle to survive.

Another point that is mentioned in the articles I have read is the problem of run-off from the streets and areas surrounding the lake. I recall that the area around the lake is slightly elevated when compared to the lake.

So, run-off after rains will also bring not only the water from the rains but also carry hydro-carbons which are on the surface of the streets. This type of pollutant load is of much greater danger to the health of the lake and the turtle than the paper and other things that are “complained” about by the people in charge of the lake protection.

I could not find an email address for Prof. Ha Dinh Duc who is written about as the “protector” of the lake. I would like to write him and ask about the required water parameters for maintaining healthy conditions for the lake…

Treating the lake would be very simple. The best solution is to have an analysis done of the water and sludge that is in the lake. It would be “best” to collect samples for analysis at several points in the lake - taking a sample at the surface, another at the mid-point, and a third from the bottom of the lake at several points. It would be “best” to do this at 10-15 different locations which would provide 30 to 45 samples for analysis. I would start by asking if this was ever done by Professor Ha Dinh Duc - if it was, then a copy of that data would be a great place to start.

If it wasn’t then that should raise all types of red flags.

If the requested data can be provided, then a full program of treatment can be recommended.


Tom Miller, President

Green Cities Fund

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