In a rapidly expanding city such as Nha Trang, the pressure of development is a significant issue. Increased construction and subsequent population growth within both the local and tourism sectors can exert great pressure on, not only the environment, but also existing infrastructure. Inevitably, there is an increased pollution risk, and additional stresses are placed on waste and sanitation systems. Realising this, local and regional governments have been pro-active, putting environmental improvement initiatives at the top of the agenda.
Discover Nha Trang set out to explore the biggest sanitation project in the province in an effort to understand more about the work of the government in minimizing the effects of pollution, and the structures put in place to allow Nha Trang City to keep up with its inevitable march towards modernity.
The Coastal Environmental Sanitation Project was sponsored by the World Bank, and implemented by the Vietnamese Government in June 2007. The primary objectives were to vastly improve the city’s sanitation system, to enhance the quality of life of the residents and to enable Nha Trang to cope with the increasing number of tourists we see each year. Completed in November 2014, the project included 6 key components:
- Development of infrastructure systems for flood control, drainage and waste-water collection.
- A new waste-water treatment plant.
- Construction of a modern leaching treatment station.
- Construction of re-settlement sites for local residents.
- A school sanitation program.
- Planning for the construction of new buildings, and connecting them to the sanitation system using modern waste management practices.
During the seven years of implementation, the project faced many difficulties and obstacles. For instance, the infrastructure for the first component, had to be added underground along many of the city’s busiest tourist streets with heavy pedestrian and traffic flows. The construction teams needed to complete the installation while minimizing the impact on both residents and tourists.
Furthermore, unseasonable weather conditions including heavy rain, combined with having to organize resettlement areas for inhabitants within the primary construction zones were big challenges for the project’s directors. However, through great effort from all stakeholders, the project met its objectives and was completed within the scheduled time frame.
Discover Nha Trang had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Chau Ngo Anh Nhan, Director of the project, who has spent the last 7 years overseeing its implementation.
DNT: In addition to the positive impact of improving the environment and quality of life of the city’s inhabitants, does this project have any special meaning for you?
Mr. Nhan: Undertaking the biggest sanitation improvement the province has ever seen was extremely daunting, so completing it on schedule and to a very high standard means a lot, both to me and the project management board. Throughout, we accumulated valuable experience that will aid us in the roll out of other OAD projects in the future. It is also a firm foundation for our organizational development as we continue our work.
DNT: How has it felt to be involved in such a big project that has often been unheralded and unknown to the general public?
Mr. Nhan: For me, it is not a silent job, as detailed information about the project has been widely announced. For example, the infrastructure plans, the improvements it would bring and the disturbance that this project could cause were widely circulated before we began. As a result, we received strong support from local government plus a huge consensus from those people the project would directly impact.
DNT: People are often quick to complain when something goes wrong with the city’s drainage system. Moreover, this occurs more prevalently in long-term projects such as this where benefits may take a significant period of time to be seen. As a person who has dealt with this over 7 years, has it been difficult for you and your colleagues to manage public perception?
Mr. Nhan: For us, managing the project was a difficult but necessary mission entrusted to us by the residents and the government. Hence, we simply concentrated on completing our objectives and to achieve the best results for the city as a whole. We always knew it would be a high pressure project due to its scale, but we were confident that residents would be very satisfied when it was completed, seeing the great improvements it made to their quality of life.
Sometimes, citizens did complain because they did not fully understand the essence of the problems we were trying to fix. In these cases, we did our best to explain the benefits that the project would bring in the long term, which helped them tolerate the impact the construction was having at the time. Now it has been completed, they are much happier with the improvements, and this makes our efforts worthwhile.
DNT: If you were not the director of this project, what would you be doing?
Mr. Nhan: (Smiling) I am still Chau Ngo Anh Nhan, citizen, who is always willing to help protect the environment of my city. Nha Trang is a wonderful place, and I think I would have always chosen to work in helping to preserve and improve it.