Media Highlights

Vietnam’s Mekong Delta ‘doomed': conservationists

Vietnamese environmentalists say the hydropower race unfolding on the lower Mekong River will destroy the delta’s downstream economy. Experts at a Tuesday conference in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang called the dams “bombs” looming over millions of people, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported.

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Hoa Binh hosts community consultation on forest protection

A seminar was held in the northern province of Hoa Binh on September 16 to announce the results of a community consultation on the 2004 Law on Forest Protection and Development.

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Poor supervision over mining allows many to get rich

A lack of transparency in exploiting natural resources has resulted in large amounts of revenues from mineral exploitation flowing into the pockets of individuals instead of State coffers.

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Laos continues building hydropower dam in Mekong River

Laos is continuing to build Don Sahong dam in the mainstream Mekong River regardless of objections and consultation requests from neighboring countries, the International Rivers Network said in a statement.

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Mekong hydropower dams: Laos considering, Vietnam needs “quick reactions”

Laos promises to consult with experts and consider the construction of hydropower dams on Mekong River is the good news for Vietnam. However, scientists say Vietnam needs to act promptly to take full advantage of its opportunities.

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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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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

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