IZs threaten environmental protection
HA NOI — The mushrooming of industrial zones is hampering the country's environmental protection efforts while threatening the health and livelihoods of residents.
Once considered a place for the locals to take water home for bathing and cloth washing, Phu Bai River in central Thua Thien-Hue Province has turned black, with malodorous water after being flooded with untreated water discharged from adjacent Phu Bai Industrial Park.
Local resident Nguyen Dang Tuan said he had spent a lot of money on building ponds to raise fish and tortoises but he had to leave them empty after they contracted diseases from the contaminated water.
"Fish and tortoise breeding used to bring us VND40 million and VND50 million (US$2,000-$2,500) in profits a year ago," said Tuan's wife Phan Thi Hao, "Our life is very difficult now because we've had to give up the business."
Some 114 households in Hamlet 2 of Huong Thuy town's Thuy Phu Commune also face ruin after waste water from the Phu Bai industrial zone contaminated their fish breeding ponds.
Another 264 households in Hamlet 7 also complained that untreated water has left their cows and buffaloes suffering from ulcers.
An appraisal report conducted by the National Assembly's Science, Technology and Environment Committee found 254 industrial zones had been established over a total land area of 69,000ha by the end of September.
Most of them have failed to meet the regulated standards on environment protection. Only 60 industrial zones had concentrated waste water treatment plants and another 20 were still building waste water treatment stations, the report said.
It said about 30,000 tonnes of solid, liquid, gas waste were discharged on average from these industrial zones daily.
A General Department for the Environment survey focused on 35 cities and provinces last year found these localities had annually discharged nearly 985,000 tonnes of toxic waste, about 7,000 tonnes of solid waste, 19 million tonnes of household solid waste and over 2 million tonnes of hospital solid waste.
The deputy head of the General Department for the Environment's Policy and Legislation Department, Hoang Minh Son, said an increasing quantity of waste would be discharged and the situation would worsen in the coming period because current management and treatment of violations had not met environmental protection requirements.
The NA Science, Technology and Environment Committee's report also said awareness on the law and regulations related to environmental protection among enterprises remained limited, while the role of the community in environmental protection had not yet been fully promoted.
The report said many industrial zones were adjacent to rivers to take advantage of water supplies and for discharging waste. The situation had affected not only the living conditions of people in the immediate vicinity, but also caused environmental pollution over a large area.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is well aware of the problem and recently issued a circular regulating the management and protection of the environment in economic, high-tech and industrial zones.
Under the circular, zones which have already been in operation, but have not yet been equipped with concentrated waste water treatment plants, will be required to put these plants into operation before December 31.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Pham Khoi Nguyen has also confirmed that the ministry would strengthen supervision of the law and regulations on environmental protection at industrial and export processing zones.
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong warned that Viet Nam would pay a heavy price in the future if it did not promote sufficient awareness of the importance of environmental protection.
Trong asked ministries, industries, cities and provinces to reach a consensus to protect the environment and combine targets on environmental protection with socio-economic development targets. — VNS