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Effectiveness, transparency of fee to protect environment questioned

Update: October, 26/2015 - 08:49
A view of the coal port of Cua Ong Coal Company in the northern coastal province of Quang Ninh. Coal mining is among the activities that harm the environment and warrant the collection of environmental protection fees. — VNA/VNS Photo Trong Dat

HA NOI (VNS) —Participants questioned the transparency as well as effectiveness of collecting environmental protection fees from miners at a conference held on Friday in Ha Noi.

The fee has been officially collected from individuals or organisations exploiting minerals since 2006 following the Decree No 137/2005/ND-CP approved by the Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Under the decree, the fee was gathered by provinces and cities where mining activities were allowed. The fee would be spent to fix environmental issues triggered by mining activities.

However, a survey of the Viet Nam Mining Coalition, conducted in 30 communes throughout the country, showed that only six communes were allocated the fee, 21 communes said no project cleaned up and improved the environment, and 12 others said they did not even know about the fee allocation.

Tran Thanh Thuy, co-ordinator of the coalition, said mining activities were estimated to take place in over 41,000 ha across the country.

Thuy named several examples of mining that harmed the environment, including coal exploitation which created 4.6 billion cubic metres of waste material each year in the country, apatite mining created 3 million cubic metres of waste material, and bauxite mining left 11 million cubic metres of red mud.

Deputy Chief of the Institute for Social Development Studies Pham Bich San recommended the Government to clearly regulate the role of authorities at the levels of province, district and commune in using the fee.

It should set up a supervising mechanism on the fee's spending, he said.

Each communal People's Committee had to make an annual plan to fix environment issues caused by mining, he said.

The annual plan should receive approval from provincial departments of natural resources and environment and agricultural and rural development before being implemented, he added.

All expenses spent on environmental improvement projects were required to be published at the communal People's Committee to ensure transparency, he said.

Mining activities were identified as really harming the surrounding environment, breaking geological structures and landscapes and leaving big holes containing waste or wastewater materials, and posing threats to the health of people living nearby, participants said.

Viet Nam has over 5,000 mines exploiting about 60 types of minerals, according to statistics from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. — VNS

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