Hanoi to clean up iconic lake two years after legendary turtle dies of pollution

By Ba Do   November 28, 2017 | 12:57 am PT
Hanoi to clean up iconic lake two years after legendary turtle dies of pollution
The Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
The popular Hoan Kiem Lake is contaminated with harmful bacteria and toxic metals.

Hanoi has announced a VND29 billion ($1.28 million) project to clean up the capital's iconic Hoan Kiem Lake, home to an extremely rare giant turtle before it died two years ago.

A public drainage firm has been tasked with dredging 57,000 cubic meters of mud from the lake between December 1 and February 7, around a week before Vietnam celebrates its biggest festival, Lunar New Year.

The Hanoi Sewage and Drainage Ltd. said its surveys had found “serious pollution” in the lake, which is home to aquatic plants, invertebrates and fish.

The surveys revealed very high levels of Coliform and E. coli, while toxic gases and metals were detected in the lake bed, it said.

It said the dredging will be carried out in three stages so that all living creatures can be moved to safety.

The entire project will be conducted at night from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. and from midnight on weekends.

The mud will be transported to a landfill site 13 kilometers (eight miles) away and then groundwater will be added to refresh the water, which currently experiences significant drops in oxygen levels at certain times of the day, the sewage company said.

Hoan Kiem (Returned Sword) Lake, covering 12 hectares (30 acres), is possibly the most popular place in Hanoi. A rare giant turtle loved by many Hanoians died in the lake in January last year. The turtle, known as Cu Rua, or Great-Grandfather Turtle, was seen surfacing several times due to the lack of oxygen in the water before its death.

Hoan Kiem  was named after a legend that says a golden turtle god showed up in the lake to take back the sword it had given to King Le Loi in the 15th century to help him fight Chinese invaders.

Hanoi’s Environment and Community Research Center, which studied 30 out of the city's 112 lakes in 2015, found that 25 of them were polluted due to uncontrolled waste and sewage discharged by both families and businesses.

Pollution and changes in the weather were identified as the causes behind at least 200 tons of fish dying in West Lake, the biggest in Hanoi, in October last year.

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