Wastewater treatment still fails to meet green standard
HA NOI — Funding needed for environmental protection for all sectors and industries in Viet Nam is estimated at about US$7.6 billion.
|Bai Chay Wastewater Treatment Plant with a capacity of 3,500cu.m per day helps protect the environment of Bai Chay Tourism Site and Ha Long Bay in northern Quang Ninh Province. Viet Nam need to attract more investment in environmental protection, experts say. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Dan
About $1 billion of this is required for the fisheries sector, said Dang Van Loi, deputy head of the Pollution Management Department under the Viet Nam Environment Administration.
Loi said, by the end of 2011, only 65 per cent of 180 industrial zones currently operating had wastewater treatment systems. Notably, about 90 per cent of nearly 500 existing paper-production enterprises did not have wastewater treatment systems or those that they had were inefficient.
According to experts, a main reason for the situation was the high cost. The Viet Nam Paper Company (VINAPACO), one of the rare paper enterprises that have proper wastewater systems, had to set aside nearly VND20 billion (more than US$950,000) each year to maintain the operation of its system.
According to the company's technical department, in 2003 the company earmarked 15 per cent of its total funding for waste treatment at a total cost of about VND100 billion ($4.76 million).
The technical department said investment in environmental protection required a lot of money and only companies with large scope were capable of investing in proper waste treatment.
They also said it was very difficult for enterprises to find financial assistance for environmental protection because the Government had limited favourable policies covering this area.
To ensure that their released waste meets national standards in concentration, some companies might mix it with a large amount of clean water to escape detection.
But experts said this not only failed to reduce the amount of waste water released into the environment, but also wasted a large amount of clean water.
Loi from the Pollution Management Department also said 30 per cent of industrial production factories of medium and large scale had wastewater treatment systems that did not operate up to the standard, or did not operate on a regular basis.
The total amount of solid waste produced every day in Viet Nam's big cities is estimated to be about 29,800 tonnes, but only 83 per cent of this is collected and treated. The figure is 30,500 tonnes a day in the countryside, while the amount collected and treated makes up only 50-60 per cent.
The common method of solid-waste treatment in Viet Nam is to bury it, which is not the best way. Also, more than 20 projects have been set up to recycle waste, but all of them are on a small scale and the recycled products are not popular in the market.
Meanwhile, trying to manage the number of environmental violations in Viet Nam is a headache for authorities.
Le Thi Kim Oanh, deputy chief inspector of the HCM City Department of Natural Resources and Environment, recently told the Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper that it was impossible to control all the violations.
She said the city had only about 10 environmental inspection staff to look after more than 150,000 enterprises.
As a result, many enterprises still release untreated waste without being punished.
Oanh said that in 2011, more than 320 enterprises in the city were inspected and 98 were fined a total of VND3.7 billion (about $176,200) for violations. Until May this year, 40 enterprises were inspected and 24 fined for environmental violations.
Nguyen Van Phuoc, deputy director of the HCM City Department of Natural Resources and Environment, told Liberated Sai Gon that the current Law on Environmental Pollution was difficult to implement because some of the rules were not clear and even conflicted with the Enterprise Law.
Environment inspectors said the equipment and staff for inspection and supervision were not adequate, making matters even more difficult to control.
According to the Pollution Management Department, so far only 17 cities and provinces throughout the country have drafted and approved solid-waste management plans. Twenty-five other localities are developing plans while 21 others have yet to implement Government Decision 798 on waste management.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment plans to build seven waste- treatment areas over the next eight years for a total of about $600 million.
According to the Viet Nam Environment Administration, waste recycling technologies in Viet Nam are out of date and ineffective.
This means that environmental industry is unformed of the limitations in technology, equipment and facilities.
The administration said Viet Nam needed to attract more investment from domestic and foreign enterprises in environment protection, especially in waste recycling technologies. — VNS