Seminar on Environment and Development in Vietnam
Friday and Saturday, December 6-7, 1996
Common Room, University House,
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Environmental Management and Policy-Making in Vietnam
Dr Tran Thi Thanh Phuong
National Enviromnent Agency
Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment
39 Tran Hung Dao
Ha Noi, Viet Nam
Tel: +84 (4) 82-40954
Fax: +84 (4) 82-51518
In 1989, the Government of Vietnam embarked on a reform named "doi moi" to guide the country from a centrally-planned toward a market economy. Vietnam has since opened up its economy and has entered the process of trade liberalisation. While has been successful in generating strong economic growth, it has created threats to the country's environment. In order to maximise the potential positive impacts while at the same time minimising the negative effects of the modernisation and industrialisation in the country, it is necessary to take measures now to protect the environment. The ongoing reform process, together with the fact that Vietnam has a unique opportunity to learn from the experiences of its neighbours, creates a good opportunity for the development and introduction of effective environmental management policies and instruments.
This paper aims to describe how environmental management is being implemented and how the policy-making process has been made. Existing investment policies emphasise that environmental protection and sustainable use of natural resources should be cornerstones of development in Vietnam. These policies should promote the economic transition, as well as environmental management for sustainable development.
With these policies in place, there is a need to identify the most important environmental issues, including problems to be tackled and measures to be taken. The problems are to find appropriate and effective preventive and treatment measures for pollution, loss of biodiversity, degradation of marine environment, and of environmental quality in urban, rural and industrial areas. To solve these problems, the Government has plans to implement a number of measures. They can be grouped into regulatory (development of institutional and legislative frameworks, capacity-building, strengthening international cooperation and implication of international treaties), economic (market-based instruments to be applied in parallel with "command-and-control" ones), and communicative (awareness raising, training and education, information management).
1. Environmental management instruments in Vietnam
1.1. Regulatory instruments:
The first draft of the Law on Environmental Protection (LEP) was written in 1991 as a result of a government project which was supported by IUCN Law Center in Bonn (Germany). The LEP was submitted to the National Assembly by the National Environment Agency (NEA), adopted on 27 December 1993, and enacted in January 1994 by Decision 29L/CTN of the President of State. The LEP has 7 chapters and 55 articles. The Law gives the general provision and describes measures to prevent and remedy environmental pollution and degradation. It describes the responsibilities and duties with regards to the environmental management of MOSTE at central level and of the People's Committees at provincial level. The LEP calls for international collaboration and makes provisions for implementation and for dealing with violation of the law. Other environmental legal initiatives include government decrees, ordinances, interministerial circulars, guidelines and other by-law documents. The list of the most important legal documents is attached in Annex 1.
Other policy documents have continuously been developed as one of the priorities. For example, the NEA has reviewed the draft of National Conservation Strategy (1985) and has prepared the proposal for a new NCS. In 1990, the National Plan for Environment and Sustainable Development (NPESD) was prepared and this plan was approved in 1991. The Plan was to provide the gradual development of a comprehensive framework for environmental planning and management and to propose specific actions to address priority areas. Four years later, Vietnam prepared a draft National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) which builds on the NPESD. The NEAP addresses the growing industrial development and urbanisation in the country. Vietnam ratified the Convention on Biodiversity in 1993. After that the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for Vietnam was approved by the Government in December 1995. On the international side, Vietnam is among the countries in the region which hava ratified the largest number of international environmental treaties (see Annex 2). However, the implementation of these international treaties needs further improvement and better coordination.
A set of national environmental standards and indicators has gradually been developed. To date there are 35 standards on water, 20 on air, 11 on soil, and 4 on noise. Effluent standards and the implementation of ISO 14000 are being prepared. These standards are to be applied nationwide and to serve as a national guideline for the National Monitoring System. Today the system consists of 13 stations, including 1 station for ground environment and 6 integrated environmental monitoring stations. These 7 stations are charged for collecting data in every 3 months and report to NEA, which is responsible for preparation of the annual State of Environment Report to be submitted to the National Assembly. Others stations are:
1 for the far sea,
2 - soil quality,
1 - acid rain,
1 - toxic and radioactive chemicals, and
1 - environmental analyses lab.
There is a provision to establish 4 more specific stations and 10 provincial stations to be included in the national system.
With regard to activities in EIA, the Government manages to promulgate legal EIA requirements for new projects and environmental audit for the old plants which were established before the LEP. Furthermore, NEA has prepared a number of sectoral EIA guidelines and a guideline for waste management and pollution control, partly with assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Further development of guidelines and methods for pollution control and inspection, as well as improvement of EIA reviewing procedure are needed.
1.2. Economic instruments: The Government authority for environmental management, NEA, is committed to promoting market-based instruments in parallel with the traditional administrative ones.
During the last decade, the Government has been providing grants for a large number of R&D projects, education and awareness raising programs. Several environment-oriented taxation programs have recently been considered for application (eg. tax reduction for import and/or installation of clean technology, taxes on forest and mineral resources etc.), while the many subsidies on chemical fertilisers and pesticides have been removed.
There are several specific funds which have some similar features with an environmental fund, such as funds for reforestation, proposed funds for coal mining and oil spill contingency. NEA is now moving towards the establishment of a National Reserve Fund and is also preparing itself to be ready for guiding sectoral and provincial environmental funds.
The question of setting up, collecting, and using environmental fees and charges is still under discussion as there are many difficult technical issues which need to be resolved.
NEA and most of provincial Departments of Science, Technology and Environment (DOSTEs) have achieved first results in imposing penalties for violations against environmental law and regulations. Since the Government Decree 26/CP on environmental fines was enacted in April 1996, NEA and DOSTEs have imposed fines amounting to about US$ 50,000 throughout the country.
The problem of defining property rights as an incentive for long-term and sustainable use of the environment and natural resources still needs more attention and further development.
The need for introduction of economic instruments is reflected in the LEP, which requires that organisations using the environment "contribute financially to environmental protection". In order to achieve this task, three criteria have been proposed to the GOV for choosing economic instruments, namely, selection of priority polluting industries, compatibility with regulatory instruments, and institutional capacity and administrative feasibility.
1.3. Communicative instruments
Raising public awareness and improvement of quality of environmental education and training have long been among the highest priorities of the GOV. Nevertheless, this should be designed and implemented in a more efficient way than it is now. Public participation and the involvement of NGOs are not active enough to carry out the supervising and monitoring functions on behalf of the society.
Although the mass media has recently been successful in providing the public with a lot of useful environmental information, the problem of wider dissemination and free exchange of information is still a crucial problem to be addressed. Today, a national environmental information system in the form of an electronic network, which has the provision for connection with the Internet and UNEPNet, is being developed intensively.
The mechanism of voluntary agreements with the involvement of NGOs, the victims and the polluters is a new concept to Vietnam and needs to be introduced.
2. Environmental Policy making in Vietnam
2.1. The Institutional Framework for environmental management in Vietnam
A special report of UNDP "Incorporating Environmental Considerations into Investment Decision-making in Vietnam" (UNDP, 1995) clearly describes the existing institutional framework in the country, including the linkages between national, provincial, and local governments. The authority for national environmental management is the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MOSTE) through its operational unit as the National Environment Agency (NEA). The mandate of NEA is as follows:
* Studying and formulating policies, strategies, bills and legislative documents on environmental protection and sustainable development for the GOV to consider and approve. Inspecting the implementation of laws and regulations on environmental protection;
* Taking environmental protection measures in order to maintain environmental health;
* Appraising and assessing the environmental impacts of projects;
* Controlling pollutants; managing domestic, industrial, agricultural and other wastes;
* Setting up and managing the base monitoring system for the whole country;
* Organising and guiding public activities on environmental protection, participating in education and training, and enhancing the environmental awareness of the general public.
Within Governmental ministries are Departments of Science, Technology and Environment (DOSTE) or a similar designation (DST), which are responsible for environmental affairs.
Each of the 61 Provincial People Committees also has a DOSTE, which is responsible for local level management of the environment.
(Annex 3. The organisation chart of the relations between ministries and DOSTEs)
Although the administrative structure for environmental management is in place, there is still a need for a clearer definition of responsibilities and division of roles.
2.2. Specific features of the Environmental Policy making process
Today, Vietnam faces many environmental problems which it has in common with other developing countries. However, it also experiences some advantages as well as disadvantages arising from its political situation as a socialist country. Some of the common problems are as follows:
* Weak administrative and institutional capacities;
* Poor regulatory enforcement, and moreover, the system tends to be highly centralised;
* Lack of financial resources to support a suitable and sufficient monitoring system;
* Enormous rate of industrialisation and capital accumulation with economic incentives for private firms to invest in integrated process technologies;
* Urgency for the problems of resource utilisation and sanitary services for unprecedented population growth.
On one hand, socialism has an advantage, related to the lack of certain private property rights as regards to natural resources (eg. land, mineral resources, water, forest), that makes implementing regulations easier. Another advantage may be the government's power to prevent the production of various products, which would cause pollution by hazardous wastes. On the other hand, there are some disadvantages seen as "incentives to pollute". They may include the following:
* Most raw materials have been treated as free or open access goods
* Absence of private ownership leads to the absence of protecting various resources
* Pollution control generally appears to be non-productive, while the existing administrative system lets local government officials be judged almost entirely by how much they are able to increase their region's economic growth. Hence, they are sometimes likely to ignore polluters
Another obstacle may be seen in the country's legislative framework and regulatory enforcement. The Law on Environmental Protection, which was enacted in 1994, and a number of other laws, government decrees and regulations provide a fairly extensive legal framework for environmental protection. However, this is not applied in a coherent way due to the lack of appropriate knowledge and environmental standards, coordination and consistency in implementing the various legal provisions. This is partly a consequence of the fact that qualified staff and the necessary facilities and equipment are in short supply. To some extent, the problem can be solved by increasing public participation in policy-making, monitoring and assessment. Such participation has been of crucial importance in a market-oriented economy, but is still far from effective in Vietnam. In addition, lack of information makes it difficult not only for government officials to make decisions, but also for the public to support the government's environmental efforts.
Nevertheless, given these constraints the GOV is faced with the challenge to revise a large number of national environmental standards. It is most likely to apply as many standards as possible from ISO 14000. It is equally important that environmental policy makers will have to develop new regulations and various institutional arrangements to ensure the enforcement accordingly. On the economic front, a major concern for Vietnamese policy makers is that the transition to the Asian Free Trade Area (AFTA) does not disrupt Vietnam's economic growth nor its industrialisation and modernisation process.
2.3. An example of making policies with regard to the economic instruments for environmental management in Vietnam
As mentioned above, the transition to a market-based economy and the expansion of the private sector are good conditions for applying economic instruments for environmental management. The first efforts have taken place in introducing the concept to government officials at central and local levels through a number of awareness raising activities and training courses. A UNDP funded project entitled "Strengthening National Capacities to Integrate the Environment into Investment Decision" has also as one of its objectives to explore the use of economic instruments to achieve sustainable development and environmental goals. This project addresses the need for implementation of Agenda 21, which calls on countries to assess the environmental effects on their existing economic policies and to ensure that new policies take into account the full costs of their implementation.
The GOV has issued some decrees and resolutions regarding environmental taxation, fines and fees, for example:
* Resolution of the Council of Ministers No.6/HDBT "Detailed Guidelines for the Decree on Taxation on Natural Resources" (7 January 1991)
* Resolution of the Government No.85/CP on Treatment for Administrative Violations in Management and Protection of Water Resources (22 November 1993)
* Interministerial Circular No.27/TTLB on Rules for Levy and Management Fees and Other Expenses for Biological Protection and Control (30 March 1994)
* Government Decree No. 26/CP on "Administrative Fines for Violations Against Environmental Laws" (26 April 1996).
The problem is that money collected from taxes, fines and fees has not yet been used directly as an investment in the environment, although the Government Decree No. 175/CP on "Guidelines for Implementation of the Law on Environmental Protection" stipulates the establishment of a "National Reserve Fund" for environmental improvement and disaster mitigation. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MOSTE) and the Ministry of Finance are charged with formulating guidelines on the collection and utilisation of fee revenues through the Fund. However, a draft set of guidelines prepared by MOSTE is still under discussion.
More specifically, a draft Government Resolution concerning Guidance on Financial Collection and Management in Environmental Protection Activities has been under development since 1995.
Great attention from government environmental management staff, researchers and academic staff is also given to other economic instruments such as tradeable permits, deposit-refund schemes and recycling incentives, performance bonds, governmental grants and special rate credits etc. However, the achievement of these instruments would need not only theoretical interpretation and understanding, but also the government's readiness to change its institutional and legal framework accordingly.
The establishment of an environmental fund is under extensive discussion.
3. Follow-up activities and the road ahead
To respond to the changing regional and local environment, the GOV will continue its economic reform, improve effectiveness of its policy-making process, particularly for the environmental policy making to meet the requirements of environmentally sound economic development. As mentioned above, the Vietnamese economy today is mixed one, having some elements of both a free market and a centrally planned base. The rules and regulations are still different from other countries in the region practising market economy. For this reason, instruments of direct environmental regulation should be developed in the first stage. These should then be adjusted by economic instruments for environmental management.
One of the first priorities is to require the GOV to formulate its policy and regulations in accordance with international standards. National environmental standards should have as many elements as possible of the ISO 14000. The application of the ISO 14000 series should be made on a voluntary and third party verifiable basis in order to shift the "command-and-control" approach from governmental environmental authorities to the self-responsibility of producers.
Vietnam should continue its labour management reforms. It should increase investment in human capital as it is crucial in promoting efficiency of the domestic economic sector and the absorptive capability of local firms for foreign technology and management skills.
Although Vietnam has already launched a number of initiatives to ensure protection of property rights, there is a need to promote well-defined administrative procedures to make firms and individuals feel secure from violation of their property rights. It is clear that business must also play an important role in meeting the challenge of sustainable development. Thus, a Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development, the establishment of which has been proposed to the GOV, would be an important tool for building a partnership among corporate investors, the GOV, international aid agencies, and other concerned entities to achieve long-term benefits of Vietnam's economy and environment. The GOV therefore will need to consult closely with the private sector. The environmental policy making process is also expected to move along this line.
A number of environmental policies should be developed and/or revised. These may include further detailed guidelines for environmental impact assessment, guidelines for environmental auditing, inspection and enforcement, a national regulation on waste management, better management regulation for sustainable use of natural resources, and the improvement of the national system of protected areas.
THE MORE IMPORTANT LEGAL DOCUMENTS
1. Law on Environmental Protection
2. Decree of the Government No 175-CP on 18 Nov. I994 "Implementation of the Law on Environmental Protection"
3. Resolution of the PMinister No 415-TTg on 10 Aug. 1994 "Regulation on organisational structure and activities of the inspection for fisheries resources"
4. Directive of the PMinister No 200-TTg on 29 Apr. 1994 "Supply of clean water and
sanitation in rural areas"
5. Inter-ministerial Circular of State Planning Committee - MOSTE No 155-TTLB on 11 Apr. 1994 "Provisional Guideline for environmental planning"
6. Resolution of the Minister for Science Technology and Environment No 1220-QD/MTg on 22 Oct. 1994 "Improvement of equipment supply for the environmental monitoring stations and laboratories which have a mandate of designing an Environmental Monitoring System"
7. Resolution of the Minister for Science, Technology and Environment No 1806-QD/MTg on 31 Dec. 1994 "Structure and Mandate of the Reviewing Panel for Environmental Impact Assessment reports and Environmental License"
8. Resolution of the Minister for Agriculture and Food Industry No 252-QD/NN/BVTV on 17 April I995 "Authorisation for the Official and Amended Register to include some pesticides into the list of pesticides for use and limited use in agriculture in Vietnam"
9. Circular of MOSTE No 1420-MTg on 16 Nov. 1994 "Guideline of EIA for existing
10. Circular of MOSIE No 715-MTg on 3 April l995 "Guideline for reporting and reviewing EIA for direct foreign Investment projccts"
11. Circular of MOSTE No 1485-MTg on 12 Dec. I994 "Guideline for the structure,
Mandate and Scope of Activities of Environmental Inspection"
12. Circular of MOSTE 3370-MTg on 22 December 1995 "Guideline for treatment
of oil spill accidents"
13. Government Decree 26/CP on 26 April 1996 "Regulation on the punishment of
administrative Violation of Environmental Protection I aw"
CONVENTIONS TO WHICH VIETNAM IS A PARTY
Vietnam is a party to the following international conventions (dates of which are in square brackets):
1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation (Annex 16)
1948 Agreement for the Establishment of the Indo-Pacific Fisheries Commission
1967 Outer Space Treaty
1971 Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat
(Ramsar) [20 September 1988]
Protocol to Amend the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, Paris, 1982
1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage [19
1972 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of
Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxic Weapons, and on their Destruction
1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Wild Fauna and Flora [20
1973/78 MARPOL Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships [29 August 1991]
1977 UN Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD) [26 August 1980]
1977 Red Cross Protocols Relating to the Protection of Victims of Armed Conflict
1982 United Nations Convention on the Law on the Sea [25 July 1994]
1985 FAO International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides
1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer [26 April 1994]
1986 IAEA Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident [29 September 1987]
1986 IAEA Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological
Emergency [29 September 1987]
1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer 126 January 1994]
London Amendment to tho Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone
Layer, London, 1990
Copenhagen Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the
Ozone Layer, Copenhagen, 1992
1988 Agreement on the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia and the Pacific [02 February
1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal [13 March 1995]
1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [16 November 1994]
1992 Convention on Biological Diversity [16 November 1994]