Entrepreneur Nguyen Van Thien: Efforts for Sustainable Environment

4:05:06 PM | 9/10/2019

Concerned about environmental pollution and community health, entrepreneur Nguyen Van Thien, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Binh Duong Water - Environment Joint Stock Company (BIWASE) has worked tirelessly to study and apply environmentally friendly advanced technologies to his business operations in water supply, wastewater and garbage treatment, which have significantly improved people’s life quality and boosted socioeconomic development and investment of Binh Duong province.

Leading water supplier

In 1997, after its separation, Binh Duong province was chosen by the Government of Vietnam to pilot the first industrial park invested by a joint venture between Vietnam and Singapore. At that time, the province faced tough socioeconomic conditions and its water supply infrastructure was weak and insufficient. Tap water production was already very hard at that time and the situation was tougher with the presence of a new industrial park with thousands of more surrounding households. This was truly a great challenge.

Under that circumstance, Mr. Nguyen Van Thien boldly proposed to the Binh Duong Provincial People’s Committee to change the operating model of Binh Duong Water Supply Company to a State-owned public utility functioning to supply tap water for households and industrial water for production activity in Thu Dau Mot Town and Vietnam - Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP). The company completely transformed from a business entity relying on the so-called “give and take” mechanism to a commercial entity under the Party's renewal policy.

This model not only opened up opportunities but also posed challenges for the company because it was financially short at that time. To sell water as requested by customers, the company had to invest in a 15-km new water pipeline system from the water plant to the industrial park. This investment project required a huge amount of capital that was beyond the province's funding capacity and the company had to borrow money from the Development Investment Fund of the Ministry of Finance, but it was still not enough. Therefore, he had to go to Hanoi to study and approach preferential loans from international donors. Eventually, thanks to the valuable support of the Government and central authorities as well as the aggressive guidance of Binh Duong province in seeking soft loans for local infrastructure development, the company was granted access to a nonrefundable development aid of US$300,000 from the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) of the Japanese Government to upgrade a 10-km pipeline and to a loan of US$3.6 million from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) to invest in a water plant with a daily capacity of 15,000 cubic meters for Di An and Thuan An districts.

The project implementation was very arduous and hard because granted fund was too small and the progress was quickened. The company opted for itemized investment to deal with its existing limitations and weaknesses. From international cooperation, the company’s staff had the chance to approach new technologies, experience in operation and business development. By 2001, the company basically replaced its obsolete water supply pipeline system, applied modern technology to operation management and continued to seek capital for new projects to meet rising consumption demands as result of the province’s industrial development investment policies.

As a leading water supply and environmental company in Binh Duong province, BIWASE has promoted its internal strength and supported investment in a clean water supply system across the province, from developed industrial areas and urban areas such as Thu Dau Mot City, Thuan An Town, Di An Town, Tan Uyen Town and Ben Cat Town to farther-lying districts such as Bau Bang, Phu Giao, Dau Tieng and industrial parks such as VSIP, Viet Huong, Song Than, Dong An, My Phuoc, Bau Bang, Tan Uyen, Dat Cuoc and An Tay. The company is serving about 180,000 customers, including nearly 7,000 corporate customers, with over 200,000 cubic meters supplied a day. Mr. Thien said, he was sometimes quite worried about how the company could ensure standard water supply for local residents on the one hand and ensure sustainable environment for the province on the other. “The company has almost no profit from water supplied to far-lying communes in Bau Bang and Bac Tan Uyen districts but it still does this for local people to help them have better livelihoods. My colleagues and I have sought measures to supply clean water to people and enterprises,” he said.

Turning waste into useful things

In addition to water supply, BIWASE is also tasked to manage water drainage and environmental treatment. Nam Binh Duong waste treatment project was implemented in two phases with a total cost of US$30.5 million, funded by ODA loans and local counterpart capital. Particularly, the second phase had a total investment of more than VND180 billion, including VND131 billion of ODA loan from Finland. In January 2018, the second phase was inaugurated and put into operation. Powered by modern recycling and waste treatment technology, the project includes a domestic recycling plant that makes compost fertilizers with a daily capacity of 840 tons, an industrial and hazardous waste incinerator with a daily capacity of 320 tons, a medical waste incinerator with a daily capacity of 3 tons, a leachate treatment system capable of handling 1,000 cubic meters and 50 cubic meters of industrial wastewater a day, and electric generator of 4,000 KVA.

Over the years, BIWASE has not only developed its business operations to meet expectations of local leaders, but also launched many meaningful community activities. BIWASE is willing to cooperate with other entities to develop and transfer waste treatment technologies and training people to effectively operate new environmental technologies and equipment for localities across the country.

In BIWASE’s many business stories, we also learned that this business supplies free water to poor households or reduces water prices for disadvantaged households. Perhaps, the responsibility of BIWASE is now very high. In addition to constantly investing in water supply plants, collecting and treating domestic wastewater for the province, the firm has to tackle 2,500 tons of municipal solid waste every day. The company faces very high pressure as local industrialization and urbanization is very rapid. Hence, the firm has to continuously invest in new water supply constructions, machinery and equipment for treating household and factory hazardous waste to meet local development needs.

The company treats almost all waste, including incinerator ash. BIWASE has studied processing waste into useful products such as organic fertilizers (from organic waste), concrete bricks with a yearly output capacity of 350,000 square meters, concrete structures (from furnace ash and sludge). Binh Duong Elephant Fertilizer Plant was built on over 3 ha, with a total cost of more than VND200 billion. Powered by modern and synchronous technology from Europe, the facility manufactures good organic fertilizers.

Mr. Nguyen Van Thien, a visionary entrepreneur, soon realized the urgent environmental challenges in his birthplace. He also took the lead in constructing water supply systems to far-flung areas. His efforts have importantly helped protect public health and ensured sustainable development of Binh Duong province. “I wish that other localities should not delay environmental protection because a short delay may cause serious and persistent subsequences to the environment. Let's get started on waste treatment and environmental protection and not let waste residues pollute the environment in the long term,” he said.

In addition to business, BIWASE pays special attention to charity and social activities. Every year, the company launches maritime sovereignty movements, which engage all employees. The company raises fund for Truong Sa defense or supports fishermen to buy fishing nets. BIWASE also cooperates with Dac Quyt Border Guard Station (Binh Phuoc province) to build roads and reception yards at Landmark 62 and Landmark 63 on Vietnam - Cambodia borderline, build concrete bridges, build schools and classrooms for upland children. Furthermore, BIWASE takes care of policy-beneficiary families and Vietnamese heroic mothers, supports poor studious students, builds charity houses, promotes blood donations, and helps poor disabled children. Its charity fund reached VND2,921 billion.

In recognition of their business achievements and social activities, Mr. Nguyen Van Thien and BIWASE have been honored with many certificates and awards such as Second-class Labor Order in 2012, First-class Labor Order in 2016, Certificate of Merit from the Prime Minister in 2010, Emulation Flag from the Prime Minister in 2016. BIWASE is named an outstanding business of Binh Duong province by the Provincial People’s Committee. In 2016, Mr Thien was named the exemplary entrepreneur of Vietnam and bestowed the Thanh Giong Cup.

Quoc Hung