Communities may be granted power to monitor environmental protection activities

September 04, 2020 - 07:56
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is considering revising the Law on Environmental Protection which took effect in 2014.


People in Hà Nội gather recycled waste and exchange for presents as part of a campaign in August which encourages local community to classify waste at source. —VNA/VNS Photo Mạnh Khánh

HÀ NỘI — The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is considering revising the Law on Environmental Protection which took effect in 2014.

Three core topics set for amendment are removing required environmental licenses, assessing the environmental impacts of projects and the treatment of solid domestic waste.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Trần Hồng Hà said the five-year-old law needed updated to keep up with the changes of the country and of the world.

“Environmental problems have not been properly addressed. The biggest crisis is we have not found a sustainable development model.

“It’s time to build a comprehensive and synchronised law to ensure it proves efficient in practice. The new law must create a ‘revolutionary’ change in public behaviour towards the environment,” he said.

For the first time, the local community could be considered ‘environmental protectors’ granted authority to monitor environmental protection activities and hold dialogues with lawmakers about the environment.

While the current law on environmental protection encourages the public to take action to protect the environment, the revised law proposes the specific rights and obligations of communities, for example, the ‘polluter-pays principle’ in which polluters must pay fees for the garbage they discharge based on weight and the amount of waste instead of a flat fee.

The proposal will encourage people to classify waste at the source to reduce the amount of discharged waste by levying high fines for failing to do so.

Under the proposed changes, waste collectors would have the right to refuse to collect garbage if the waste is not properly classified.

According to the Việt Nam Environment Administration, the production of domestic solid waste has been increasing in both quantity and composition, putting pressure on the environment. It is estimated the amount of domestic solid waste generated each day nationwide is about 60,000 tonnes, of which 60 per cent is from urban areas. By 2025, the rate of domestic solid waste generation is forecast to increase by 10-16 per cent year.

To tackle this, the environmental protection bill regulates that the disposal of recyclable solid waste, if classified properly, will be free of waste collection, transportation and treatment fees.

Households have to pay those fees if the solid waste is not recyclable or properly classified.

After collecting opinions from National Assembly deputies, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has classified solid waste into three groups instead of five, namely recyclable solid waste, food waste and domestic solid waste.

Experience from Japan shows Việt Nam should emphasise the role and responsibility of producers in domestic solid waste management.

Japanese consultant Hideki Wanda said more than half of domestic waste comes from businesses, meanwhile, in Tokyo it is more than two-thirds. Therefore, to minimise the amount of generated waste, it is necessary to take action on waste released by both households and businesses.

Another big change in the draft revised law on environmental protection is the removal of more than 40 per cent of environmental administrative procedures. Enterprises just need to apply for one license which covers seven sub-licenses that they used to have to apply for one by one. — VNS