Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Việt Anh is an expert in water and wastewater treatment technology, author of hundreds of articles that have been published in prestigious domestic and international journals, towards issues that are of concern to science and practice such as: Research on treatment of sewage sludge, septic sludge, organic solid waste, collection of biogas for energy production; Research on resource recovery from urban waste streams; Research on collection, treatment and supply of rainwater for poor communities; Decentralized, low-cost wastewater treatment,... Many researches and patents of the Professor have been successfully transferred and applied in practice. On the occasion of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's organization of the 5th Vietnam Environmental Awards Ceremony, the Vietnam Environment Administraton Magazine (VEM) had a talk with Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Việt Anh - Head of Water Supply and Sanitation Division, Director of Institute for Environmental Science and Engineering (IESE), National University of Civil Engineering (NUCE) on a number of scientific research achievements in practical applications, including the research on Formosa Hà Tĩnh Ecological Park.
Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Việt Anh - Director of IESE, NUCE, Vice Chairman of Vietnam Water Supply and Sewerage Association at the Vietnam Environmental Awards Ceremony
VEM: Congratulations you have just been awarded the 5th Vietnam Environmental Award by the MONRE for your great contributions to the cause of environmental protection! What does the award mean for the scientific research and teaching activities that you are pursuing?
Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Việt Anh: Environmental protection is everyone’s duty. Therefore, in order to keep the environment clean for sustainable development, all must make joint efforts. In everyday life, there are always many practical activities, many bright examples and countless people making silent but meaningful contributions to the society. I myself is just an individual with the daily jobs attached to the profession, with responsibility, enthusiasm and passion only. I am very happy to be recognized and awarded by the Board of Judges and the Ministry of Naturral Resources and Environment (MONRE). This is a timely encouragement for me and my colleagues to continue to dedicate to environmental protection work. I hope this award will inspire and motivate young colleagues and students of the NUCE to follow the chosen professional direction.
VEM: Obviously, for decades, many published researches and patents of Professor in the field of environment have been transferred and applied successfully in practice. Could you please tell us about some research topics that have been deployed in the past time?
Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Việt Anh: During the past 25 years, I and the lecturers, researchers of the IESE, the NUCE have continuously specialized in and contributed to a number of researches of practical value. In which, there are 3 products of science and technology that my colleagues and I have spent a lot of efforts to complete, specifically:
Lagoon process to control incidents caused by industrial wastewater: This solution has been developed since the marine environmental incident in some Central provinces in April 2016. This model both allows the storage of wastewater for re-treatment when an incident occurs, and at the same time improves the water quality after the wastewater treatment plant, before being discharged into the sea and contributes to the improvement of regional landscape, ecology and is the place of verification and supervision of the wastewater management activities of enterprises selected by Formosa Hà Tĩnh Company (Hà Tĩnh Province) and allowed by state management agencies.
This is the first lagoon system combined with a large-scale plant-based water filtration in Việt Nam in an area of 10 hectares, designed with function of incident and biological indicator control and additional wastewater treatment having modern equipment that works flexibly: incident wastewater storage tanks and sewage circulation pumps for retreatment with automatic monitoring system, SCADA and remote-controlled camera, chain of lagoons with circulating piping system, biological indicator aquariums, flora in filtration yards... We designed and constructed based on the professional knowledge and experience accumulated through decades of works.
Formosa Hà Tĩnh Ecological Park with lagoon process to control incidents
After 3.5 years of operation (from July 2017) up to now, the system has been working very stably. The water quality through the lagoon system and the plant-based water filtration is improved (always much lower than the limit value). The lagoon system works well, reduces the work pressure on the operators and managers of the wastewater treatment plants. With the practical efficiency of the system, Formosa Ha Tinh Company named this work as "Formosa Hà Tĩnh Ecological Park". To date, the work has had over 10,000 visitors coming from local residents, students, domestic and international delegations. This solution also has been granted the Patent No. 21386 by the Intellectual Property Office of Việt Nam. Many enterprises, production establishments, industrial parks have referenced this model to apply for economic and environmental protection efficiency.
Decentralized, low-cost wastewater treatment solution for residential areas: Realizing that decentralized wastewater treatment is an important solution in places where the model of centralized wastewater drainage and treatment has not yet applied, or applied inappropriately, especially in developing countries, single works, suburban residential area, rural areas... Since 1998, my colleagues and I have successfully explored, researched and developed different models of decentralized wastewater treatment, typically the baffled septic tanks with anaerobic filters (BASTAF), BASTAF tank combined with aerobic treatment (BASTAFAT), BASTAF tank and plant-based water filtration, AFSB wastewater treatment tank, models of low-cost, hygienic latrines, pre-fabricated composite modular and pre-fabricated reinforced concrete wastewater treatment tanks.
To date, decentralized wastewater treatment solutions using BASTAF, BASTAF + plant-based water filtration, BASTAFAT have been widely recognized, applied and included in the legal documents of the State such as Circular No. 04/2015-TT-BXD guiding the implementation of the Government's Decree No. 80/ND-CP on sewerage and wastewater treatment. In addition, hundreds or thousands of works have been applied in practice to schools, health care facilities, poor rural households, condominiums, tourist resorts ... such as: Tomb of General Võ Nguyên Giáp (Vũng Chùa, Quảng Bình); K9 historical relic (Đá Chông, Ba Vì, Hà Nội); Tây Thiên relic area (Tam Đảo, Vĩnh Phúc); National University of Civil Engineering; Cát Bà Tourist Island Pier (Hải Phòng); Residential - Office at 12 Thụy Khuê (Hà Nội); Vicostone Hòa Lạc Factory (Hà Nội); Villas in the campus of Vietnam National Convention Center (Mỹ Đình, Hà Nội)... Recently, we continue to improve and develop systems of decentralized wastewater treatment tanks powered by solar energy, with remote on-line control; model of septic tanks using microbiological preparations, allowing flushing with seawater; model of dry latrines, separating urine, composting microbiological fertilizers ... deployed for army units stationed on islands of Vĩnh Thực, Cô Tô (Quảng Ninh), Cát Bà (Hải Phòng). The treatment tanks are made of composite modular form, which are flexibly assembled and transported to the islands. Obviously, the research team has taken the lead and made important contributions to promoting the application of decentralized wastewater treatment solutions in Việt Nam. Anaerobic wastewater treatment system and procedure in combination with aerobic BASTAFAT have been granted Patent No. 9957 by the Intellectual Property Office of Việt Nam.
Rainwater collection solution for residential areas: With the need for solution to supply clean water for daily life and drinking of people in rural areas, where water sources are scarce, surface water, and ground water are polluted, we have developed a rainwater collection, treatment, storage and use model, with the solution of automatic rainwater separation, filtration and disinfection to treat rainwater into drinking water directly, that has automatic control and online monitoring.
Some projects have been implemented such as: Rainwater collection and treatment system, that supplies drinking water directly to pupils at 2 primary and secondary schools in Đại Cương Commune, Kim Bảng District, Hà Nam Province; Phương Nại Pagoda, Yên Mô Commune, Yên Nhân District, Ninh Bình Province; Medical Center of Lý Nhân District, Hà Nam Province; rainwater systems installed for primary schools in districts of Nam Từ Liêm, Thanh Trì (Hà Nội), Sa Pa District (Lào Cai)… These models have contributed to solving the water shortage for drinking, living in rural, remote and isolated areas, helping poor households and rural pupils have safe drinking water, also raising awareness, improving health status and living conditions. Thousands of pupils and the poor rural people have benefited and the model is continuing to replicate.
Systems of decentralized wastewater treatment tanks powered by solar energy, deployed for army units on islands
VEM: Recently, the Law on Environmental Protection 2020 has been passed by the National Assembly and is about to be put into practice, so as a leading expert in the field of water and wastewater treatment technology ... What are your suggestions to improve the legal policy on environmental protection in the coming time?
Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Việt Anh: We are in the stage of rapid economic development, with great challenges in environmental pollution, degradation and depletion of natural resources. Therefore, without drastic policies, implementing consistent and thorough solutions for pollution control and environmental protection, the environment and natural resources will continue to be damaged and the cost of restoration will be extremely high, not even possible. Over the past 25 years, we have invested nearly 3 billion USD in urban wastewater collection and treatment, mainly with ODA loans, but only treated about 15% of the generated wastewater. If at the current rate, it will be a long time before we can control pollution caused by urban wastewater. Additionally, there are still millions of cubic meters of industrial wastewater, also from craft villages, rural areas... Therefore, it is necessary to have appropriate and feasible mechanisms to mobilize other resources, especially from the private sector in order to quickly increase the coverage of drainage and wastewater treatment services. Attention also should be paid to the connection and responsibility of the dischargers to the urban drainage system. For regional development and urban development planning, it is necessary to implement principles of integrated water resource management and apply appropriate water drainage and wastewater treatment organization solutions. Sustainable approaches that bring economic benefits such as integrated waste management, resource recovery and circular economy should be encouraged, brought to life soon, through appropriate policies. Development planning needs to have a long-term, consistent vision, and step-by-step implementation must be sure and effective. We conducted a study with the World Bank evaluating 17 sanitation improvement projects in Việt Nam. The results show that, for every 1 USD spent on sanitation, the direct and indirect benefits are between 4 and 11 USD, while the annual loss due to poor sanitation in Việt Nam is equivalent to about 1.3% of GDP, so it is necessary to give priority to investment in this field. We are currently working with the Vietnam Environment Administration, the MONRE on a number of professional contents towards the implementation of the Law on Environmental Protection 2020 and will continue to contribute our best to these meaningful works.
VEM: In your opinion, what policies are needed to link research results with practical application in enterprises?
Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Việt Anh: In the field of environmental protection, the biggest gap between scientists and enterprises, in my opinion, is the stage of completing research results of scientists and enterprises' investment in technological solutions researched and developed. Currently, many technological solutions have potentials, but have not found the path from the laboratory to practical application, because research institutions are often not eligible to deploy at pilot, semi-industrial scale to fully assess the cost benefit factors, product life cycle... Meanwhile, enterprises are not motivated to invest in research and development (R&D), including waste treatment in the context of technology market that is being "real and fake that make confused", there is also a lack of arbitration units to assess, evaluate technology, protect copyright. Besides, there is the thought of "foreign preference", dealing in waste treatment, environmental protection, or doing just for immediate benefits... In my opinion, an effective solution to overcome this problem is key investment policy, that correctly identifies and focuses on potential researches and practical application. Scientists, research bases, especially applied sciences, need to know how to cooperate with enterprises and local authorities. On the contrary, local authorities and enterprises need to have goodwill to cooperate with capable scientists and professional units to place orders to solve their specific problems.
Rain water system supplying drinking water directly to Phương Nại Pagoda (Ninh Bình Province)
VEM: Sincerely, thank you!
(Source: Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine, English Edition I - 2021)