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Authorities fail to tackle pollution woes

Update: September, 14/2013 - 10:20
Workers treat wastewater in the central province of Quang Ngai. Officials said regulations should be improved to solve conflicts arising between environmental polluters and people living in polluted areas. — VNA/VNS Thanh Long
HA NOI (VNS)— Lack of legal framework and supporting tools have posed difficulties in resolving conflicts arising from environmental polluters and people living in polluted areas.

According to a survey by the Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment, environmental conflicts usually relate to pollution of water, air, soil and affect health, income, living conditions and job opportunities for people who live in polluted areas.

In many cases, they send their complaints to local authorities, expressing their anger and objecting to the operation of companies.

Not having the proper knowledge about laws and legal assistance, they even gather in front of companies and disrupt their operations or damage their assets.

However, their complaints were not addressed properly, said Nguyen Trung Thang, vice president of the institute.

He said that there was a shortage of legal documents regulating details and giving consistent procedures for handling environmental conflicts and the parties involved.

"Conflict settlement is mostly an administrative measure of public administration which does not have a function to solve environment conflict," he said.

The Commune People's Committee at the grassroots level was usually the first to receive complains, but they failed to address them and transferred them to the district level, and they were still confused about their responsibility in tackling such conflicts.

People have to await a response from authorities.

The conflicts were settled mostly in terms of ensuring social security. Compensation was mostly decided based on the recommendation of affected people or local authority because there were few tools and criteria available to help assess damages.

Chairman of the Viet Nam Association for the Conservation of Nature and Environment Nguyen Ngoc Sinh said that transparency in law enforcement and the community's determination was crucial in resolving environment conflict.

"The issue is quite new in Viet Nam," he said, adding that few countries in the world have laws for handling environmental disputes.

As it became an urgent issue in Viet Nam, the establishment of agencies or an environmental court, which specialise in resolving environmental disputes, is needed, he said.

Experts from the Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment said that as an environmental court is set up, other needs would arise, including an improvement to the legal framework and the capacity of the judges working in the sector.

Nguyen Minh Duc, an official from the Legal Affair Department from the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that now was the time to develop regulations over a mediation mechanism at environment protection agencies at all levels so that it can help to raise the responsibility of relevant agencies that directly receive people's environment-related complaints. — VNS


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