|From 2006 to 2011, there were 8,000 cases of illegal deforestation and 1,000 cases of illegal wildlife trafficking. — File Photo
HA NOI (VNS) — Improving legal and institutional systems for effective environmental management was vital for Viet Nam to pursue sustainable development and strengthen international competitiveness, speakers agreed at a workshop in Ha Noi on Thursday.
National development strategies until 2020 have highlighted a shift in the economic model, aiming for greater added value, high productivity and energy efficiency – all particularly needed when the country was striving for industrialisation and ASEAN integration.
At the ongoing session, the National Assembly will discuss a revision of the Law on Environmental Protection (LEP), which has been drafted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) to strengthen legal enforcement.
It is expected to adopt the revision next year.
MONRE International Cooperation Department Director Tran Thi Minh Ha said the ministry would continue to conduct policy talks with development partners on the amendments in the meantime.
Dao Xuan Lai, an expert from UNDP Viet Nam, said that recent developments required closer partnerships between State agencies, the private sector and the public.
From 2006 to 2011, there were 8,000 cases of illegal deforestation and 1,000 cases of illegal wildlife trafficking, while 70 per cent of waste water from industrial zones nationwide was directly discharged without treatment.
The existing LEP from 2005 lacked a mechanism for people to exercise their rights to monitor, inspect and discuss environmental protection. There was also no mechanism for residential communities to sue companies that broke the law or demand compensation for damage caused by environmental pollution.
The latest revisions had provided additional articles to deal with these shortcomings, but more specific regulations could make it stronger, according to the UNDP.
"The draft law is an improvement to the existing law, but it still needs more work before it is adopted by the National Assembly," UNDP policy advisor Koos Neefjes told Viet Nam News.
For instance, the law needed authorities to complete an assessment of the environmental impacts of investment projects before approving them, and give the public access to the plans.
"How to facilitate better connections between private enterprises and environmental management is a big challenge for Viet Nam," Koos noted.
"The private sector is becoming increasingly important here, but companies in that sector can be both polluters and environmental problem solvers.
"The law has to deal with this," he said.
A study pointed out that in many circumstances, the public could not do anything to stop enterprises that damaged the environment, even though they were within their legal rights, because many companies held special positions or relationships with local authorities.
"We know that a lot of personnel in State-owned enterprises have also worked for the government, and vice versa. These conflicting roles need to be seperated."
For LEP enforcement, the Japan International Cooperation Agency said the Government should establish an environment database while urging local authorities to strengthen investment inspections. — VNS