News

NGOs Calls for Cancellation of Dams on the Mainstream Mekong River

On the occasion of the 2nd Mekong River Commission (MRC) Summit, on 3rd April 2014, the Save the Mekong Coalition (StM) sent a letter to four Prime Ministers of MRC member states to express their concerns over impacts of existing and planned hydropower projects.

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NGOs Work for Sustainable Forest Development

Six non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Vietnam are carrying out four UK-funded projects this year in a joint effort to manage and use forest resources in a sustainable manner, according to the People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature).

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World Wildlife Day

On March 3, the U.S. Embassy’s American Center Hanoi organized an event to celebrate the first globally recognized World Wildlife Day. More than sixty Vietnamese youth attended the program that began with a short, thought-provoking film on wildlife conservation practices in the United States. The film is the fifth, and final, part of a series on environmental issues, produced by Vietnamese broadcast journalists through the PAS-sponsored TV Coop program. The series was aired on national TV and is scheduled to be aired again soon.

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In Vietnam, unsustainable ‘modernization’ too much for sanitation services

In Vietnam, unsustainable ‘modernization’ too much for sanitation services.

Nhue-RiverA polluted section of the Nhue River in Hanoi’s Ha Dong District. Experts have urged Vietnam to invest more in sanitation services to reduce pollution. Photo by Ha An

Huynh Thanh Long said he and his neighbors close all their doors and windows whenever they are at home but that doesn’t keep the awful stink from the Ba Bo Canal out of the house.

“Pollution often forms a thick layer of foam on the surface of the flowing water,” said the resident of Ho Chi Minh City’s Thu Duc District.

According to the city’s anti-inundation center, pollution in the canal is a combination of wastewater from residential areas and industrial zones upstream.

Pollution in big cities is common in Vietnam, threatening public health and sustainable growth, experts say.

Vietweek recently reported serious pollution in Hanoi’s rivers, the result of untreated wastewater being discharged from series of new urban areas built without  wastewater treatment facilities.

“Over the last 20 years, the government of Vietnam has made considerable progress on the provision of wastewater services in urban areas, investing nearly US$250 million annually in recent years,” said Le Duy Hung, a senior urban specialist in Hanoi.

“However, keeping pace with rapid urbanization is challenging and it is estimated that $8.3 billion will be required to provide wastewater services to Vietnam’s urban population between now and 2025,” Hung, who is also a leading researcher at the World Bank’s Vietnam Urban Wastewater Review, wrote in a report released on January 20.

The report focuses on the specific challenges that Vietnam faces as a result of increasing environmental pollution associated with rapid urbanization. It also evaluates the performance of the wastewater sector in Vietnam.

It found that although 60 percent of households dispose of wastewater through a public sewerage system, much of this goes to the drainage system with only 10 percent of the wastewater treated.

Hung said estimated economic losses resulting from poor sanitation stood at $780 million per year, or 1.3 percent of the country’s GDP.

“Financing needs are still very high, estimated at $8.3 billion for sewerage services to an estimated urban population of 36 million by 2025,” he said.

Industrialization problem

Apart from untreated wastewater from residential areas, pollution also comes from industrial zones, threatening public health and sustainable growth.

Recently, many farmers in HCMC’s Cu Chi District complained that they do not have water for nearly 400 hectares (988 acres) of rice due to pollution in the Thai Cai and An Ha canals.

They accused the SEPZONE – Linh Trung 3 Industrial Zone of discharging untreated wastewater to pollute the canal.

Vietnam’s first industrial parks opened in 1991 as part of the doi moi reform movement, and there are currently more than 189 industrial parks and 878 export processing zones nationwide in 57 of the country’s total 63 cities and provinces.

Vo Thanh Thu of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s international trade policy advisory committee said that rapid industrialization over the past 20 years had led to a boom in industrial parks and export processing zones.

However, it has also led to serious pollution, leading to conflicts with local residents.

“Only half have established waste treatment plants,” Thu said at a recent seminar on the issue, organized by the People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) a Vietnamese non-profit organization.

Thu said that toxic waste is discharged without treatment, causing serious pollution to the environment.

The committee urged the government to review industrial park and export processing zone zoning plans and encouraged agencies to cooperate to improve the monitoring of environment regulations.

Action needed

Researchers estimated that investment levels of at least $250 per person are needed annually in the East Asia region over the next 15 years to manage wastewater and septage that is generated by the urban population.

In another World Bank report, entitled East Asia Pacific Region Urban Sanitation Review: Actions Needed, researchers examine what is holding back the sector and recommend ways to expand and improve urban sanitation services in an inclusive and sustainable way in Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The region’s rapid urbanization is an engine of economic growth but poor quality sanitation leads to unsustainable development, with economic losses of 1.3, 1.5 and 2.3 percent of GDP in Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, respectively.

“Worldwide, about 2.5 billion people lack adequate sanitation and 660 million of them live in East Asia and the Pacific Region,” said Charles Feinstein, World Bank sector manager for energy and water.

“Inadequate sanitation takes a tremendous toll on the quality of peoples’ lives, the environment, and the economy,” he said. “But the good news is investments in sanitation yield high returns.”

According to the report, poor sanitation has a significant impact on public health in the region including chronic poor health caused by diarrheal disease and an increased risk of disease epidemics such as cholera.

It calls for developing people-centered policies, promoting cost-effective technical solutions, developing sustainable institutions for quality services and developing viable financial schemes.

Returns on sanitation investments are also high.

Worldwide, every US dollar invested in sanitation yields $5.50 in return in terms of economic benefits.

In East Asia, this rate of return is even higher, with every US dollar spent yielding $8 in return, according to the World Health Organization.

Source: VietWeek

HCM City seminar addresses industrial waste

Pollution caused by industrial parks and export processing zones was addressed at a seminar held in Ho Chi Minh City last week, reports the Vietnam News Service. The seminar was organised by the People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) a Vietnamese non-profit organisation and was attended by among others Members of the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s International Trade Policy Advisory Committee.

drvothanhthuDr. Vo Thanh Thu presenting at the workshop. Photo: PanNature.

Committee member, Dr Vo Thanh Thu, said that rapid industrialisation in the past 20 years had led to a boom in industrial parks and export processing zones. She said that Vietnam has 289 industrial parks and 878 export processing zones.

“Only half have established waste treatment plants,” she says.

Dr Vo Thanh Thu said that toxic waste is discharged without treatment causing serious polution to the environment.

The committee urged the government to review the industrial park and export processing zone zoning plans and agencies to cooperate to improve the monitoring of environment regulations.

Source: The Southeast Asian Times

Pollution originates in legal loopholes

It is the unreasonable legal framework which has made the environment pollution in industrial zones (IZ) and export processing zones more serious.

20131231132900-envir303The barrels of toxic chemicals buried by Nicotex Thanh Thai under the earth.

People complain, competent agencies plug their ears

According to Dr. Vo Thanh Thu from the HCM City Economics University, who conducted a state’s research work on the development of industrial zones in Vietnam, 289 IZs have been licensed, but only 184 have become operational. The IZ investors have been trying to attract investment at any costs, while they do not pay appropriate attention to the environment protection.

It is estimated that the IZs put out 47 million cubic meters of waste water every year, including a high volume of untreated waste water. A report showed that 85 percent of the small-scaled industrial clusters and 75 percent of IZs still don’t have concentrated waste water treatment systems or discharge substandard waste water.

PanNature, or the People and Nature Reconciliation center, which conducted a survey in northern IZs, discovered the serious pollution caused by production factories.

In Tang Loong IZ in Lao Cai province, though the phosphate plant seriously polluted the nearby area, 69 households still have not been relocated. Since the day the factory became operational, local people have suffered the bone-and-joint diseases, while more and more buffalos and cows have died.

Meanwhile, in Phu Tho province, 30 hectares of cultivated land has been left idle because of the black water discharged from the Thuy Van IZ in Phu Tho province day and night.

Bui Manh Hung, a National Assembly’s Deputy from Binh Phuoc province, said the local people many times complained about the bad odors and pollution, but competent agencies affirmed that the indexes were within the safety line.

Especially, local people complained that their houses got cracked due to the mine detonation in the nearby stone exploitation site. However, the competent agencies still affirmed that the vibration was within the allowed level.

Environment-related disputes on the rise

A senior official of the Vinh Long provincial IZ Management Board noted that in many cases, consultancy firms could anticipate the negative impacts the projects will have on the environment, but they did not tell the truth, just because the local authorities showed their strong determination to develop IZ to attract as much investment as possible.

Nguyen Van Hau from the HCM City Bar Association has noted that the higher environment degradation level has led to the sharp increase in the number of the disputes relating to the environment.

The problem is that the waste discharged by industrial factories has affected people’s livelihood. In many cases, local people raised lawsuits against the producers for damages. Vedan, Sonadezi Long Thanh in Dong Nai province and Tung Kuang in Hai Phong City were once the defendants.

Hau stressed that while the pollution is so obvious, which can be seen with naked eyes, competent agencies still deliberately close their eyes.

Hau said local people have sued Nicotex Thanh Thai company which buried the barrels of pesticide under the earth, thus causing the serious land and underground water pollution.

Both the Hanoi and Thanh Hoa provincial Bar Association have agreed to give legal support in the lawsuit, while the Environment and Natural Resources Institute has agreed to take land and water samples for testing.

“We are awaiting the document from the Thanh Hoa provincial people’s committee on the issue. However, things seem to be stuck because of the creepy silence of the local authorities,” Hau said.

Source: VietnamNet

Nation pays heavy price for industrial gains

The excessive number of industrial parks and export processing zones have caused serious environmental pollution in the country, experts said at a seminar held in HCM City last Friday.

Dr Vo Thanh Thu, member of the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s International Trade Policy Advisory Committee, said that rapid industrialisation in the past 20 years had led to a boom in IPs and export processing zones.

o-nhiemPeople from authorised agencies inspect the Ba Bo Canal, which receives wastewater discharged from HCM City’s Dong An Industrial Park. Industrial parks and export processing zones have caused serious environmental pollution in the country. — VNA/VNS Photo Phuong Vy.

As of last year, the country had 289 IPs, EPZs and hi-tech parks, and 878 industrial clusters.

Thu said the development of IPs and EPZs had contributed to the country’s economic development but those without master zoning plans had low occupancy rates and caused pollution.

“Provinces and cities have raced to set up IPs,” she said, adding that Ha Noi, the country’s administrative centre, was now the largest industrial one, with 19 IPs and EPZs and 40 small IPs and industrial clusters.

However, as of today, only eight out of the 19 IPs have been put into operation.

“In the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, 74 IPs are idle, representing a total area of 14,394ha, accounting for 60.2 per cent of the region’s total IP area,” she said.

In addition, up to half of IPs and EPZs have not built waste treatment systems.

Many companies have built such systems but have not used them.

Instead, they directly discharge waste water into the environment, causing serious pollution in local areas and affecting the lives of local residents.

In the past, most localities neglected the issue of environmental protection, as many projects in IPs and EPZs are labour-intensive. Few companies have high-tech equipment.

Workshop attendees also pointed out that laws on IP development contained many loopholes and unreasonable regulations, while penalties were not strong enough.

There is also an overlap in environmental management at IPs, causing difficulties for agencies, said Cao Tien Si, deputy head of the Dong Nai Province Industrial Parks Authority.

Many workshop attendees said that more hi-tech “green” projects were needed at IPs.

They also suggested that the Government and localities review IP zoning plans based on local economic planning, regional development, land use, urban infrastructure and local advantages.

They suggested that agencies work together to improve the monitoring of environmental protection regulations.

The seminar was organised by PanNature (People and Nature Reconciliation), a Vietnamese non-profit organisation established by a group of Vietnamese environmental professionals, in collaboration with other organisations.

By 2015, half of the industrial complexes in Ha Noi will be equipped with collective waste water processing systems, the Ministry of Industry and Trade has said.

Under the VND145 billion (nearly US$7 million) project, which was approved by the city’s People’s Council in the beginning of this month, the systems will be set up in 16 industrial complexes across 14 districts such as Gia Lam, Hoai Duc, Ha Dong, Dong Anh, Thanh Oai, Ninh Hiep, and Thuong Tin during 2014-15.

Of this amount, the Thanh Oai industrial complex in the suburban district of Thanh Oai and the Ninh Hiep industrial complex of the Gia Lam District will receive the highest investment of approximately VND14 billion ($660,000) each, according to Pham Dinh Duong, vice head of the Industrial Complexes Management Board under the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

“Between 40-45 per cent of the project’s total cost will be funded by the State budget while the rest will be paid for by the complex’s investors,” said Duong.

The State budget is to cover works such as waste water collection, construction of waste water reservoirs, operating house of the waste water treatment station and a fence to protect it as well, he added.

Meanwhile, industrial complex investors will cover expenses for installing the equipment, technology and materials to operate the waste water processing systems in compliance with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s standards.

Ha Noi will conduct measures in order to effectively reduce the industrial pollution in the city by 2015, such as co-operation with relevant departments to increase awareness among the people about the issue as well as involve them further in environment protection.

The project is scheduled to start in the beginning of next month and will hopefully tackle the pollution occurring for years at the industrial complexes, according to Duong.

“After the processing systems are put in place at the industrial complexes, each enterprise is expected to pay VND4,000-8,000 ($0.2-0.4) for every cubic metre of treated waste water,” Duong said.

According to Ha Noi’s statistical data, up to 107 industrial complexes have been built in the city on a total area of 3,200ha. Nevertheless, only seven of them were equipped with collective waste water treatment systems.

Source: Vietnam News

Expert says neglect of duty in mining a form of corruption

The neglect of obligations in protecting the environment in exploiting natural resources can be seen a delicate form of corruption, an expert said at a seminar on Wednesday on transparency initiatives to protect the environment.

Dang Hung Vo, former deputy minister of natural resources and environment, told the meeting that many investors belittle the task of environment protection in their projects, thus doing harm to the environment and the community.

The strategic environment assessment and the environment protection statement required for such projects, especially those in mining, have not properly attended to by project owners, and in many cases, investors prepare such studies only to gain regulatory approval for their projects, Vo said.

The community can hardly get access to information on environment protection from each project, while compensations for the community due to environmental damages have not been properly enforced, he said.

toadam24122013Photo: PanNature.

“The failure to fulfill environment protection obligation in projects to tap natural resources is therefore a form of corruption,” he told the seminar organized by the non-profit organization PanNature in Hanoi.

Do Thanh Bai from Chemistry Society of Vietnam said thousands of licenses had been issued to investors as of may 2013 to tap natural resources nationwide. These include 79 licenses issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, 530 licenses issued by other central agencies, and 4,200 licenses granted by provincial governments.

However, between 30% and 40% of mining enterprises do not make periodic reports on their operations as required, he said.

Under prevailing regulations, of all the taxes payable by mining enterprises, 30% is to be paid to the central State Budget, while the remaining 70% is paid to provincial coffers. Information about the payment of such taxes is not transparent, Bai said.

Source: The Saigon Times

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

“There are some interesting lessons we can learn from REDD+ in Indonesia – REDD is not only about payments for carbon, it is also about improved forest governance. We can achieve multiple benefits in terms of the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services, such as watersheds and ecotourism, and social benefits such as improved land tenure and greater rights for communities.”

REDD-Workshop-01a
These were key observations highlighted by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) Indonesia’s Mr Ahmad Kusworo at FFI’s Regional REDD+ Programme’s second ASEAN Workshop on Community Forestry and REDD+ Policy Development, which ran from 13-15 November 2013 in Hanoi, Vietnam. The workshop was hosted by programme partners, the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP) and PanNature.

More than 50 active participants (programme officers, government representatives and local community leaders) from Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam contributed to the productive workshop by sharing lessons and future strategies for REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, plus enhancement of forest carbon stocks).

The Indonesian workshop delegation of seven comprised of: from West Kalimantan Province, Joannes Prabani Setioharnowo (Head of Forestry Office, Ketapang District), Ms Yanta (Community Forestry Forum) and Mr Imanul Huda (Director, People Resource and Conservation Foundation, Indonesia Programme); and from Jambi Province, Ms Emmy Primadona (REDD Coordinator, Indonesian Conservation Community/WARSI).

The Cambodian delegation of 10 comprised of: from Siem Reap Province, Mr Marina Prak (Forestry Administration Deputy Cantonment Chief for Siem Reap Province), Mr Neron Neak (District Governor, Varin District), Mr Nga Mao (Community Forestry Management Committee leader for Tbeng Leak Community Forest), and Mr Vuthy Mao (His Excellency Deputy Governor of Siem Reap Province); Mr Delux Chhun (Deputy Chief of Forest Carbon and Climate Change Office, Forestry Administration); and Mr Pheakkdey Nguon (Doctoral Candidate, Clark University, Massachusetts).

The Philippines delegation of 12 comprised of programme officers, government representatives and local community leaders including: Mr Alexis Lapiz (Philippines Climate Change Commission/CCC); Mr Mark de Claro (Department of Environment and Natural Resources); and Ms Conchita Calzado (tribal leader, Agta-Dumagat-Remontado).

REDD-Workshop-02aThe Vietnam delegation of 23 consisted of national and provincial government representatives including: Mr Nguyen Kim Phuong (Vice Director of the Kontum Department of Agriculture and Rural Development); local community leaders from Hieu Commune; and managers and REDD+ experts from the World Agroforestry Centre, Forest Trends, the UN-REDD (Phase II) Programme and local NGOs. At the workshop, Dr Pham Manh Cuong, Vietnam REDD+ National Programme Director, provided a valuable update about REDD+ policy developments in Vietnam and hosted an open dialogue with participants.

The Regional REDD+ Programme is managed by FFI, working in partnership with NTFP-EP and PanNature, and is chiefly funded by the European Union (EU) with support from the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN).

FFI Regional Programme Manager, Mr Rob Harris said the Hanoi workshop was an excellent opportunity to network with government, community and non-governmental organisation representatives who were responsible for actively carrying out REDD+ policy activities.

“The workshop, and following visit to the Vietnam project site in Kontum Province, will strengthen future collaborations in a very effective way for the direction of the REDD+ Programme,” Mr Harris said.

“There was a dynamic exchange of ideas between the ASEAN countries – everyone wanted to find out what issues had been highlighted and apply this knowledge to their own country strategies and pass on their experiences to others.”

Regional REDD+ pilot projects are operating in Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, with the long-term aim to effectively reduce carbon emissions while providing benefits to forest-dependent people.

Mr Harris said the programme was driven by the aim to create performance-based payments – to pay forest owners to protect their forest resources and therefore reduce emissions.

“Such payment for environmental services can only succeed with clearly defined land tenure and carbon rights, so the REDD+ Programme works to improve and strengthen forest governance, by ensuring that the tenurial rights of indigenous and forest-dependent communities are incorporated into the decision-making process,” he said.

“REDD+ needs a broad set of policies that include institutional reforms in the areas of governance, tenure, decentralisation and community forest management.

“The programme strives to build the capacity of local communities and country governments to actively participate in REDD+ pilot projects and channel lessons into policy contributions at international, national and regional levels.”

Source: communitycarbonpool.info

People and Nature Reconciliation | Office: 24 H2, Khu do thi moi Yen Hoa
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