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Berea College

Publication Date

Fall 2006

Program Name

Viet Nam: Ecology and Sustainability in the Mekong Delta


In order to research a topic a holistic perspective is important. Often experiments are performed absent from the environment that is being observed. It is like thrusting one’s hand into an ocean to grope around for a specimen, extract it, and examine it apart from its native habitat. Although this is possible and often primarily the method, to immerse oneself into where one is studying is to increase one’s ability to obtain a more holistic perspective. I have come to believe that the more practical and accurate scientific experiments are a combination of laboratories and on the field. Not only should the substance be analyzed, but the surrounding community that directly or indirectly is affected should also be understood. Personal and communal perspectives, habits, traditions, understandings are often not taken into account. However, when the researcher lives with them, learns from them, and sees life from their perspective, its incorporation only enhances the final results of the analysis. How else can one help another?

This paper should not be read scientifically as the experiments were not performed within a strict, controlled environment. Contrary, this should be read as a journal or rather an extended article describing the current issues of wastewater disposal in Can Tho City, Vietnam, the present practices, health hazards, and suggestions on how can to improve the situation. A majority of my time was spent with a typical low-income farmer and his family who live in My Khanh village on the outskirts of urban Can Tho City. There I observed his approach, limitations, and understandings of the environment and how he as an individual, his family and community is contributing both negatively and positively to its future. If one truly desires to influence another’s life, one must begin by stepping into their shoes and perceive life through their eyes in order to gain what they already know and conceive what they have yet to know. From there, one can pinpoint the need or area of unawareness and address it directly.

Due to time constraints, language restrictions, and selective observations, this paper can only reflect a small fraction of the wastewater situation in Can Tho City, let alone Vietnam at large. One can either approach the issue from outside and trace the adverse affects to the sources or dive within it and understand it from the inside outward beginning with the vector sources and following them to the victims they influence. I chose the latter.


Environmental Engineering

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