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Environment is not to be traded off for economic benefits

(10:20:45 AM, 25/08/2016)

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc is speaking at the conference

At the national online conference on environmental protection, taking place on the morning of 24th August, the Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc stressed this viewpoint and said that it was necessary to change our thinking in environmental protection, considering environment as a mean to speed up sustainable development.

Participating in the conference were Vice Prime Ministers Truong Hoa Binh, Vu Duc Dam, Trinh Dinh Dung, Minister-Head of the Government Office Mai Tien Dung, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha and Standing Vice Head of PCC Commission for Economics Cao Duc Phat and leaders of 63 provinces/cities.

* Gaps remain

Prime Minister acknowledged that although the government has been giving strong directions to tackle environmental issues however, until now specific solutions at both central and local levels have not been found out.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc pointed out some big gaps in current environmental management. For example, environmental pollution is taking place in wide area, not in a specific area. Many complaints regarding environmental pollution made by a large number of people have been taking place in many locations. Today’s blast of environmental pollution is caused by accumulations in the past, over many years and during development process.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha said that environmental protection in our country is facing with tremendous pressure from national socioeconomic development. Each year, there are more than 2,000 investment projects that need to conduct environmental impact assessment in accordance with applicable laws.

The biggestenvironmental concerns are now happening in industrial development areas. Minister Tran Hong Ha added that currently out of 615 industrial clusters, only 5% of them are provided with centralized wastewater treatment systems, while the rest are not and discharging wastewater directly into the environment.

* Be careful with investment attraction at all cost

Minister Tran Hong Ha pointed out some of current and futureenvironmental threats. These threats are closely linked with economic development, investment attraction and scaling up of investment projects.

According to Minister Tran Hong Ha, we should pay attention to the regime of calling for foreign direct investment at all cost, which can result in the tradeoff by serious environmental pollution. Due to the past attention to call for FDI, Vietnam tends to loosen environmental protection standards in order to give better competitiveness than other countries in attracting foreign investments. In reality, some FDI enterprises have caused serious environmental pollution, namely Vedan, Miwon and Formosa, whose wastewater has caused sea environment pollution in 4 central coastal provinces of Vietnam, and Vinh Tan 2 thermal power plant which has caused smog and dust pollution, etc.

Currently FDI flows tend to move into sectors that consume a lot of energy, resources, human resources and are environmentally unfriendly, such as metallurgy, ship building industry, garment and textiles, footwear, mineral exploitation and making use without linkage with specialized processing, pulp industry, chemical production, and food and farm product processing, etc. All these fail to attract advanced and source technologies and technological transfer. Many enterprises even accept fines when they are found to cause environmental pollution and after that convict the same act of causing environmental pollution again.

In addition, foreign investors have taken advantage of the gaps in Vietnamese technical specifications/standards to bring in obsolete technologies, which overuses resources, energy and manpower in order to maximize their profit.

The minister also warned that there are more and more big projects which have been issued with investment licenses but still lack of proper planning and assessment of potential environmental impacts. Environmental pollution prevention, control and response by investment projects have not received appropriate attention.

Minister Tran Hong Ha pointed out potential environmental threats in Vietnam

* Comprehensive solutions are now needed

“The 4th industrial revolution is coming into shape very soon. If Vietnam is slow in to act, the country may become a dump field for brow, obsolete and polluting technologies of the world”, stressed Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha.

In order to improve the situation, the head of the natural resources and environment sector believed that it is necessary to focus on some key solutions. These include tightening of technical specifications, standards, environmental technical barriers; encouragement of advanced and clean technologies; streamlining of legal and institutional framework; and enhanced capacity of human resources, etc.

For the long run, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment suggests that a ranking of environmental protection performance by localities should be established and implemented since 2017 and increased budget spending for such activity.

The ministry also proposes that the National Assembly would supervise environmental protection performance of big investment projects which are approved by the National Assembly and Prime Minister and then assigned to provincial level people’s councils to follow up with implementation.

It is believed that after this online conference, the Prime Minister will issue a Directive on pressing duties and solutions for environmental protection by 2020, which drives toward enhancement of institutional capacity and prioritizing resources for environmental protection.

Bao Chau