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Experts urge ‘green' investments

Update: March, 12/2012 - 10:58

 

A worker operates the wastewater treatment system at the Thai Nguyen Electrolytic Zinc Plant. The reluctance of enterprises to invest in green technology has hampered the country's development. — VNA/VNS Photo Hong Ky
HA NOI — Enterprises' reluctance to invest in green technology and poor enforcement of environmental laws are hampering Viet Nam's sustainable development, experts said.

Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) and Director General of Viet Nam Environment Administration Bui Cach Tuyen said the country's economy was still too dependent on industries such as mining that polluted the environment.

He said the country's natural resources needed to be exploited more efficiently. To achieve this, firms must invest in better infrastructure, waste disposal technology and improve employees' environmental awareness.

Cao Sy Kiem, a member of the National Monetary Policy Consulting Committee and chairman of the Viet Nam Small and Medium Enterprise Association, said cash-strapped enterprises did not have the funds to invest in green technology and were instead directing resources towards new technology and better working conditions for employees.

In addition, some do not see the benefits of investing in environmental protection, he said.

"But enterprises' biggest concern is about transparency and equality when it comes to enforcement of environmental regulations," he said.

Tran Vu Hoai, vice chairman of Unilever Viet Nam, a founding member of the Viet Nam Business Council for Sustainable Development, said enterprises needed to be made fully aware of the need to protect the environment.

He also said a roadmap should be formulated to force firms to become more environmentally friendly that included better supervision and stiffer sanctions.

Hoang Duong Tung, vice general director of the Viet Nam Environment Administration, said awareness about the need for environment protection had improved in recent years. He also said the Government allocated 1 per cent of its national spending each year on environmental protection.

However, he said enterprises needed to be better informed about the Law on Environment (1993), which was amended in 2005 and may be further revised next year.

Tung said stiffer penalties needed to be imposed on firms that broke environmental laws. He said a lot of firms at the moment would rather pay the existing fines than go to the expense of treating their waste.

In the last few years, environmental authorities have stepped up inspections. Fines have also increased 10-fold. The most serious environmental infraction can incur a fine of VND400-VND500 million.

Tung also said firms that violated the law should be named and shamed in the media.

Christoph Von Waldersee, managing director of Asia Water Development Corporation, said that emerging economies such as Viet Nam always faced environment issues resulting from rapid growth.

"When investing into public utilities, the private sector usually looks for high yields... while the public sector can generate the political will, legal framework and share both the burden and profits," he said.

The forum on economic growth and its environmental impact was co-organised by Viet Nam Holding Limited and MONRE last week. — VNS

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