HA NOI (VNS)— Serious environmental polluters may be fined up to VND2 billion (US$95,240) – almost four times the present level, said deputy minister of Natural Resources and Environment Bui Cach Tuyen.
"The punishment is expected to deter an increasing number of pollution cases that are linked to economic development," he said at a recent conference to discuss plans to deal with the problem over the next eight years.
Tuyen said the high fine would make enterprises more cautious. Light punishments were no deterrent because many enterprises were ready to pay fines – and continued polluting.
Under the existing decree covering punishments for polluters (Decree 117/2009/NQ-CP) that has been in effect since March 2010, the highest fine is VND500 million ($23,800).
He said that the weak capacity of inspection teams had handicapped efforts to control pollution.
Many enterprises intentionally did not treat their waste products to save money, while some localities made light of environment protection to attract investors.
Some authorities did not pay enough attention to punishing those who ignored their responsibilities, Tuyen added, therefore, the problem continued to get worse.
"However, if we temporarily suspended offending enterprises from operation, unemployment, poverty and social evils would increase," he said.
Setting up a proper roadmap for polluting enterprises meant finding measures that ensured a balance between environmental protection and economic and social development, Tuyen added.
He suggested that the new plan should specifically outline every relevant bodies' work and responsibility in carrying out the task.
After nine years of implementing a prime-ministerial decision (No 64) about tackling enterprises causing serious pollution, 370 out of nearly 440 enterprises involved from 2003 to 2007 eventually complied.
And 3,400 out of 3,800 enterprises listed before 2003 also actually remedied their errors. — VNS