Ministry acts first on environment

Updated 7:31' 3/9/2018
A worker at a steel smelting machine.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has asked agencies to comment on its special project to control companies thought to be likely of polluting the environment - even industries not yet in operation, such as power plants.

Tran Hieu Nhue from the Vietnam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment said the project was imperative, especially after the massive death of fish in the central provinces in 2016.

"When we clearly name producers at high risk of polluting the environment, it is easier to force them to fix the situation," he said.

Dau Anh Tuan, Director of Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s legal department, said producers would only be named if the threat was scientifically based.

Tuan added that the assessment should include criteria on how producers had followed regulations on environmental protection in the past.

“This will provide motivation for producers to actively obey regulations to avoid being added to the strict-supervision list,” he said.

Under the draft project, 28 major producers - even those not yet in operation - have been listed on the special control list.

The producers, stretching from Lao Cai to Tra Vinh province, include the Lao Cai diammonium phosphate (DAP) No2 Plant under the Vietnam National Chemical Group (Vinachem); An Hoa Pulp and Paper Mill in Tuyen Quang province; Nam Son Waste Treatment Complex in Hanoi; the Taiwanese Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation; the Bauxite-Aluminum Tan Rai - Lam Dong Complex; the Vinh Tan Power Centre in Binh Thuan province; the Nhan Co Aluminum Factory in Dak Nong province; the Vietnam Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing Limited in Hau Giang province and the Duyen Hai Power Centre in Tra Vinh province.

Ministerial concern arose after a range of environmental disasters occurred, causing serious damage to the environment. The biggest incident was the mass poisoning of fish off the coast of the central province in April 2016, Tuoi tre (Youth) newspaper reported.

Hoang Van Thuc, deputy head of the Vietnam Environment Administration, said the ministry had selected 16 types of producers at high risk of polluting the environment.

They encompass metallurgy, thermo-electricity, mining and the processing of metallic minerals using toxic chemicals, paper-pulp production, fabric and yarn dyeing, plating, latex processing, cassava processing, cement production, chemical and pesticide fertiliser production, petrochemical, leather tanning, seafood processing, sugarcane processing, battery manufacture and waste treatment.

“After the fish wipe-out in central coastal provinces, the ministry recognises that we must not be in a passive situation again,” Thuc said.

According to Thuc, of 28 major producers, several are still on trial operations and some have been under construction.

For example, five factories belonging to Vinh Tan Power Centre in Binh Thuan province have been placed under strict supervision. Only Vinh Tan 2 Thermal Power Plant is in operation, the other four plants are still under construction.

In Tra Vinh province, four factories of the Duyen Hai Power Centre have been listed on the strict-supervision checklist. Only Duyen Hai 1 Thermal Power Plant is in operation, the two others are under construction and another has yet to be built.

The project will be submitted to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc for approval after the ministry finishes collecting comments.

Minister Tran Hong Ha said the project would help to shift the mindset of protecting the environment at the end of the “wastewater pipe” to protecting the environment at the beginning of the “wastewater pipe”.

“The idea of producing products first and protecting the environment later should be eradicated,” he said.