Posts by Web Editor

Announcement of PanNature’s New Office Address

PanNature’s office has moved since 10th December 2013. Our new office address is now:

24 H2, Khu do thi moi Yen Hoa, Yen Hoa quarter, Cau Giay district, Hanoi, Vietnam
Direction map: http://www.nature.org.vn/en/contact/maps/

Our phone and fax numbers, email, and postal address remain unchanged:
Phone: ++844 3556-4001
Fax: ++844 3556-8941
Email: contact@nature.org.vn
Postal: PO Box 612, Hanoi GPO, Hanoi, Vietnam

PanNature-Office-Map

Please kindly note our address change for future communication. PanNature would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your help, cooperation and support over past years. We hope to continue working with you more in the future.

Active Policy Progress at REDD+ ASEAN Workshop

ASEAN delegates active at Regional Workshop on Community Forestry and REDD+ Policy Development in Hanoi, Vietnam

Read more →

Strategic Environmental Assessment for Each River Basin

On November 25, Vietnam River Network (VRN), Center for People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature, Vietnam Union of Science and Technology) and Centre for Promotion of Integrated Water Resources Management (Ciwarem) sent a recommendation document to the National Assembly (NA) on planning and management of hydropower projects on rivers’ basin.

As assessed by VRN and PanNature, with a dense network of rivers and favorable geological conditions, Vietnam is considered as one of the countries with hydropower potential. For over 20 years, this potential source has been strongly exploited to serve the objectives of socio- economic development of the country. Currently, Vietnam has 268 hydroelectric projects of large, small and medium scale that have gone into operation, contributing 45.17 % of the total power output of the national electricity grid. However, a large area of forestland, agricultural land and other types was permanently acquired by these works. Worse still, hydropower plants alter natural flow of rivers in both flooding season and dry season, which significantly reduces the amount of the downstream sediment.

thuydienHaGiangPhoto: PanNature.

In that context, VRN, PanNature and Ciwarem have recommended the NA and management agencies urgently implement a comprehensive assessment of the operational process of hydropower projects as well as separate projects as ladder works, dam and downstream safety; continue reviewing hydropower development planning, consider delaying construction projects in planning without adequate assessment of the environmental and social costs. It is essential that the government prioritizes strategic environmental assessment of hydropower development plan in each river basin to examine related issues, such as environmental and social impacts; coherence with development planning or other nature conservation plans before shifting to the investment phase.

Source: MONRE

Call for rethink on hydro-power plants

Four non-government organisations (NGOs) have called on the National Assembly for tighter controls on hydro-power plants to prevent loss of lives and widespread damage during storms.

The recommendation was made by the Viet Nam River Network (VRN), People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature), Centre for Sustainable Development of Water Resources and Adaptation to Climate Change (CEWAREC), and the Centre for Promotion of Integrated Water Resources Management (CIWAREM).

The NGO leaders said that the operation of existing power plants had created severe impacts on residents lives, property – and the environment.

thuydien112013Photo: PanNature.

“We understand the contribution these plants make to the economic development of the nation, but we call for reconsideration on planning future ones and their impacts on rivers and environment in general,” said Lam Thi Thu Suu, VRN’s chief coordinator.

“We also call for more responsible management by Government on sharing water resources and water discharges during the flood season.

“For years, locals in Central region have experienced so much loss, including loss of lives, properties, livelihood and culture,” she said.

In early November, the unannounced discharge of a huge volume of water from Huong Dien and Binh Dien power plants in Thua Thien Hue Province killed three people on their way to school and on work.

Later, continuous water discharges of water from power reservoirs added to the floods caused by heavy rains in Central provinces from Thua Thien Hue to Khanh Hoa. The size of the floods was described as historic. They claimed 43 lives, destroyed concrete bridges and roads, and wiped out thousands of hectares of crops.

The record floods created an emergency situation for thousands of people in the southern Central region and Central Highlands.

At a NA session last week, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung admitted that the management of power plants had been loosely handled and pledged that the National Assembly would tighten up the situation.

The four local NGOs also recommended forcing power plant developers, managers and central and local governments to comply with strict regulations.

They asked for a detailed assessment on the losses caused by power plants so that those affected could be properly compensated and enabled to get on with their lives.

The NGOs recommendation called for environmental-impact assessments for power projects to be carefully implemented by the scientific community before any new work was done.

Source: VietnamNews

Vietnam pushing ahead with nuclear power expansion

Vietnam is more committed than ever to meet its growing energy needs with nuclear power while its energy-hungry neighbors have become more cautious of the energy source after the Fukushima meltdown.

Nuclear plans are set to be on the agenda as Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Vietnam Tuesday. Vietnam is working with Russian utility and energy company Rosatom on its first two-reactor nuclear power station in the south-central province of Ninh Thuan, whose construction has been delayed by three years, from 2014 to 2017.

Workers repair electric grid in HanoiWorkers repair an electric grid in Hanoi. Facing a chronic power shortage, Vietnam has chalked out an ambitious plan to supply at least six percent of its electricity needs from nuclear power by the year 2030. PHOTO: REUTERS

Last month, the US and Vietnam also inked a deal allowing American companies to develop civilian nuclear power here. Japan and South Korea have also exhibited interests in gaining a foothold in an industry that could be worth US$50 billion by 2030, according to US estimates.

Talks about funding the construction of the second nuclear power plant, also in Ninh Thuan, have been underway between Japan and Vietnam. Meanwhile, during her visit to Vietnam last September, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said her country was interested in introducing its nuclear power technology here, adding that a joint study on a project to build a nuclear power plant in Vietnam had been launched, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Facing a chronic power shortage, Vietnam has chalked out an ambitious plan to supply at least six percent of its electricity needs from nuclear power by the year 2030. With the first nuclear plant set to come on-stream in 2020, the country envisages building eight nuclear plants and 13 reactors by 2030.

“I believe nuclear power is a very reliable and economical source of energy,” said Joonhong Ahn, a nuclear professor at the University of California in Berkeley.

“I cannot think of any national energy plan without nuclear power for such a big country with a lot of potential as Vietnam,” he told Vietweek.

If things go as planned, Vietnam will be the first Southeast Asian nation to commission a working nuclear plant, though other neighbors have talked about the idea for years.

Southeast Asia has no working nuclear power plants, but more than half of the countries in the region plan to develop nuclear power as a solution to looming energy shortages. Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines are also looking to build nuclear plants or start up non-operational ones in the next few decades.

But after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear meltdown in March 2011, the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 25 years, some officials and activists in the Southeast Asian region are asking that the pursuit of nuclear power be rethought.

“Among the ASEAN countries, it appears that Vietnam possesses the most concrete plans for developing nuclear power, including both a definite timeframe for the construction of nuclear plants and business deals concluded with Russia,” Kevin Punzalan, a researcher at De La Salle-College of St. Benilde in the Philippines who has surveyed plans for nuclear energy development across Southeast Asia, told Vietweek.

In contrast, Malaysia and Indonesia have set “target dates” for the construction of plants that have not been backed up by more detailed plans. The Philippines has the Bataan NPP, but no government has been willing to rehabilitate it for operation, especially after Fukushima.

“Vietnam will prioritize nuclear power development” to address its power crunch, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said at a Vietnam-Russia business forum last month.

With countries trying to limit greenhouse gas emissions from coal and other fossil-fuel based power plants, and questions over nuclear power, energy-hungry Vietnam, with a population of 90 million, is following its own energy path.

The country generates 40 percent of its power from hydropower plants. Oil and gas reserves deliver 31 percent of energy, but crude oil output has peaked. Under a government blueprint, coal is projected to cover over 56 percent of all electricity production capacities in Vietnam by 2030, making the country an important coal importer.

But that is not a good thing.

“Coal is producing high levels of emissions and it is also polluting in other senses, whereas mining is causing destruction of landscapes, biodiversity and is causing health problems in itself,” said Koos Neefjes, the policy advisor on climate change for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Vietnam.

“Coal is cheap, comparatively, even imported coal. But in all cases coal poses an enormous logistical challenge [with] huge ships, harbors required,” Neefjes said.

Although the government has enacted a green growth strategy, experts say other renewable resources — such as wind, solar and biofuels — have not been given priority.

“Vietnam has still not paid enough attention to energy efficiency,” said Trinh Le Nguyen, executive director of People and Nature Reconciliation, one of Vietnam’s few locally based conservation groups. “Nuclear, hydropower, and coal will remain the main sources of energy of Vietnam,” he said.

“Perhaps Vietnam won’t plan to invest much in renewable resources itself.”

Source: VietWeek

Rebalance the Lower Mekong Development

On 4th November 2013, The panel discussion ”Rebalance the Lower Mekong Development: Are there Cooperative and Equitable Solutions Available?” was co-organized by PanNature and the Henry L. Stimson Center.

With progress on Xayaburi continuing unabated and plans for further mainstream dam construction in the works for the Don Sahong and Pak Beng, the future of cooperative, sustainable, and equitable development of the river appears increasingly in doubt.

Dr.Richard P. Cronin, the Director of Southeast Asia Program, Stimson Center in the panel discussion

Dr.Richard P. Cronin, the Director of Southeast Asia Program, Stimson Center in the panel discussion

The undeniable fact is that the first dams on the Mekong’s mainstream are being constructed in Lao regardless of the MRC’s Agreement, recommendations of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) as well as objection ideas of its neibouring countries.

As a downstream country, Vietnam will certainly suffer from any impacts caused by upstream dams on the Mekong river. These impacts will have significant implications on food and environmental security, economic-social-political stability of the country in the future.

Answering the question whether the environmental and social impact of those dams can be mitigated by preventing the worst situated dams from being constructed, some suggested that economic compensation should be considered as an alternative solution to persuade Lao to cancel the construction of dams. In addition, strong support from such financial institutions as the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, development partners, donors and other stakeholders plays an extremely important role in this case.

Opinions from the discussion agreed that the impacts from mainstream hydropower development were extremely serious, uncompensatible and irreversible, and that MRC was essential but not sufficient enough to gain equitable solutions. In order to gain a common wealthy situation and equitable development for the region, political commitment from all MRC’s member countries was an obligation.

Publishing guidance on pines

Recently, People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) has published the guidance on pines in the mountains of Mai Chau – Moc Chau  to provide specific information and updates on Pinopsida plants, collectively referred to as the coniferous flora in the mountains area bordering provinces of Hoa Binh and Son La .

pine-book-cover

The publications have provided information on the new pine species on the mountains of Moc Chau District, such as Pinus affarmandii  – the newly discovered species in this area; communities of Cephalotaxus mannii and Amentotaxus yunnanensis. These are the first species that have been found in this area. In addition, the publications also provide specific guidance to breed conifers in nursery conditions by breeding methodscompatible to the species.

This guidanceis crucial to the conservation of natural resources in general and to the conservation of conifers in particular as the limestone corridors Hoa Binh – Son La, namely Mai Chau – Moc Chau mountain is one of the areas of high value for biodiversity.  However, information on the species as well as the conservation of endangered species in this area has not been adequately studied and properlyconcerned.

Source: MONRE

Foreign pressure forces Vietnam house to shelve hike in mineral royalties

Mining companies worry that digging up Vietnam will no longer be as profitable.

In an unprecedented move, three foreign embassies have jointly urged Vietnam’s legislature not to approve a government proposal to increase royalties on minerals mined in the country out of fear it would hurt companies’ profits.

Gold bars are counted before given to a customer at a gold shop in HanoiGold bars are counted before given to a customer at a gold shop in Hanoi. Vietnam’s legislature has put off the hike in royalty rates on gold to 17 percent from the current 15 percent after three foreign embassies said it would hurt companies’ profits. PHOTO: REUTERS

According to a joint letter read out aloud at a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on October 12, the embassies of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand said the proposed hikes in mining royalties will affect the investment climate in Vietnam and the country’s ongoing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an ambitious US-led free trade agreement.

The national legislature yielded to the pressure, shelving the planned increases and asking the Ministry of Finance, which put forth the proposal, to reconsider them.

At the October 12 meeting, house leaders expressed concerns that the hike in royalty rates on gold to 17 percent from the current 15 percent would have a bearing on foreign investment. The house returned the proposal, which also sought to increase the royalty rates on other key minerals, to the Ministry of Finance for “further consideration”.

“We need to tread very carefully on this issue,” house speaker Nguyen Sinh Hung said at the meeting.

The ball now is in the court of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who will review the issue and consult with the National Assembly. His say on the matter will likely sway the legislature to vote one way or the other.

Royalty payment is a unique feature of the extractive industries. It is not tax paid on profits earned from minerals but the price that mining companies must pay for the minerals if they want to take them out of the ground.

This was the second time in three months the nation’s legislative body had deferred voting on the hikes in mineral royalties.

In August, it also rejected a government proposal to increase the royalty rate on gold to 22 percent. The Ministry of Finance then adjusted the rate to 17 percent but still, a number of businesses, foreign trade associations and embassies have vehemently objected to it.

The three embassies declined to reveal the full content of the letter when contacted by Vietweek, but their position appeared to be in line with a letter sent last July to the ministries of Finance and Planning and Investment by the Vietnam Business Forum, a consortium of international and local business associations and chambers of commerce.

“The existing mining legislation in Vietnam and the fiscal regime to which miners are subject already causes foreign investors to rank Vietnam as one of the worst places in the world in which to invest in the industry,” the letter said.

“These proposed royalties will not improve investors’ perception and provide further evidence that investors cannot trust the Vietnamese government to maintain a stable fiscal regime once they have committed investment to projects,” it said.

Canary in the hole?

Foreign gold producers have welcomed the decision to put off the royalty hikes.

“We… see it as a positive step for the growth of a sustainable mining industry in Vietnam and a positive signal to foreign investors,” David Seton, Chairman of Besra Gold Inc, told Vietweek. The company runs the Bong Mieu and Phuoc Son mines in central Vietnam.

But Vietnam is not the only country thinking about increasing mining royalties this time. Elsewhere in the world, Canada’s Quebec, Western Australia, and India also have plans to do so.

A study in India indicates that miners have been making “substantial profits” and recommends increases in royalties of key minerals.

Do Hoang Anh Tuan, deputy minister of finance, said the proposed hikes in mining royalties would ensure gold producers reap “reasonable benefits.”

The ministry has defended the move by saying it would help deter the already dire hemorrhage of natural resources in the country.

Geologists believe that Vietnam has substantial reserves of minerals such as iron ore, coal, copper, bauxite, gold and zinc.

In the past, foreign mining companies operating in Vietnam have warned that they would pull out investment and go elsewhere in the region because of the government’s tinkering with the tax and royalty regime.

“By way of comparison, we have a major project in East Malaysia in which we will be investing over the next three years. There we have a 0 percent royalty and half the corporate income tax rates of Vietnam,” Seton said.

Experts say it is no surprise that companies and their embassies are so resentful against such increase in mining royalties.

“The reaction from companies and mining lobby groups is the same, including threats to close mines,” said Trinh Le Nguyen, executive director of People and Nature Reconciliation, one of Vietnam’s few locally based conservation groups.

“Nevertheless, if the government of Vietnam plans to hike the royalties, they should keep in mind the principle of ‘no surprise’ to consult the industry carefully,” Nguyen said.

Gold producers blame their dissatisfaction on Vietnam’s knee-jerk tax regime and often threaten to pull out of the country. They say the government has in the past signed 25-year contracts with companies only to “unilaterally change” the contracts every ten years or so to hike royalties.

But experts say the most recent proposed royalty increases are still within the framework defined by the 2009 Law on Royalties, which “companies are obviously well aware for their business plan development,” Nguyen said.

Vietnam will slash corporate income tax to 22 percent from the current 25 percent from January 1 next year. The country plans to bring it down further to 20 percent in the 2016-2020 period.

At the end of the day, in the case of economic downturn, the mining industry and the government can negotiate tax cuts or other measures, experts say.

“But again, the industry should not lump royalties with taxes,” Nguyen said.

Source: VietWeek

Signing MoU with GreenViet on Biodiversity Conservation

Greenviet Biodiversity Conservation Center (GreenViet) and People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) have signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen cooperation and effort in developing, implementing and sharing information about nature conservation and environmental protection in Vietnam.

Read more →

Documentary Series: Erosion – The Fight at the West Coast

This video covers the story of coastal erosion in the West Coast of the Mekong Delta through the eyes of local inhabitants. The serious damage that erosion has created is an early warning sign of the long term impacts that climate change, man-made and natural disasters might bring to the region. The video consists of three episodes: Running away from the sea / Living with Erosion / Greening the West Coast

Read more →
People and Nature Reconciliation | Office: 24 H2, Khu do thi moi Yen Hoa
Yen Hoa quarter, Cau Giay district, Hanoi, Vietnam
Phone: ++8424 3556-4001 | Fax: ++8424 3556-8941 | Email: contact@nature.org.vn