Viet Nam hopes to control environmental pollution at the source, deputy director general of the Viet Nam Environment Administration, Tran The Loan, told the Thoi bao Kinh te (Viet Nam Economic Times) Newspaper
What's your assessment on the level of chemical pollution in Viet Nam?
Environmental pollution in our country has become alarming. Viet Nam is in the process of accelerating economic development, particularly industrial.
Industrial plants use many chemicals, but their waste treatment methods are often poor and outdated.
In addition, waste generated from the agricultural sector has not been well administered, particularly the wanton use of fertilisers and pesticides by farmers.
The widespread use of chemicals in the environment has seriously affected the surrounding eco-systems of plants and animals.
Many of the chemicals will stay in the environment or in the human body for long periods before disintegrating. When the levels of chemicals accumulated in the body reach a certain level, they can seriously harm human health.
Do you think your department should take responsibility for the widespread use of chemicals in the environment?
There are two problems I would like to mention here. Firstly, the management of chemicals has not fully complied with legal documents regarding their use.
Secondly, the enterprises themselves are not fully aware of the negative impacts of chemicals on the environment as well as their responsibility in protecting their workers' health and the surrounding community.
To make immediate economic benefits, they avoid fully complying with the law on chemical management.
What are the biggest challenges facing your department in environmental management?
In my opinion, many Government offices and agencies and owners of enterprises have poor knowledge about chemical administration. This is the key reason for the high level of pollution in our country at present.
In the near future, when the 2014 Law on Environmental Protection comes into force, I'm confident the environment will be improved.
The 2014 environment law is rather comprehensive in terms of environmental protection and management of chemical wastes and their treatment.
Of course, in the field of environmental protection, it needs strong co-operation from various agencies.
In chemical administration, it is important to take into account the life cycle of some chemicals. This is totally new to Viet Nam, so it will take time for us to get used to and do it well.
Environmental administration is rather new to Viet Nam, particularly to environmental staff at the grass roots level. This is something we have to try hard to overcome.
What do you think about the legal framework dealing with violations?
I think our law on penalising people violating the law on environmental protection is very comprehensive. Under the current law, the highest administrative sanction for serious pollution could be VND1 billion ($475,000) for an individual and up to VND2 billion ($950,000) for an organisation.
But it is not easy for law enforcement officers to detect such big cases. It is a big challenge for environment management agencies.
Many people have complained that it is a real challenge for environmental officers to manage, control and handle pollution generated by enterprises, particularly the small ones. What do you think?
I agree. We are facing a lot of difficulties in managing, controlling and handling pollution generated by small enterprises. Throughout the process of compiling the 2014 Law on Environmental Protection, we came up with the idea about having staff specialised in dealing with the issue in small enterprises or production units.
However, until now we can only afford having environmental staff working at State-owned enterprises.
With lessons learned from Japan, for us it is imperative to have environmental staff working in production units/enterprises that have potential to create pollution. These people must have certificates in environment management.
During our visits to foreign enterprises, their CEOs told us that they were willing to invest in hi-tech pollution treatment in their enterprises. This is a positive signal. — VNS