VietNamNet Bridge – The Environment Police Agency did not raise any lawsuit in the last five years, since its establishment, because the 2005 Environment Protection Law proves to be “too vague”.
Too many problems existing
When the environment policemen discovered Vedan, a seasoning powder producer, discharging untreated waste water directly to the river several years ago, they asked the managers of the company to show the report on possible environmental impacts which Vedan had to make when building the factory. Vedan only gave a photocopied document, saying that the original copy was submitted to the local environment department.
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However, the local environment department could not find the original copy of the document. “As such, we had no foundation to learn about how many liters of waste water Vedan discharged to the environment every day,” said Luong Minh Thao, Deputy Director of the Environment Police Agency.
Dr Vu Quang, a lecturer of the Hanoi University of Technology, said that he once read the environmental impact report compiled by a hydropower plant in the south. “Only the name of the report showed that the report was about the possible impacts of the hydropower plant project on the local environment. Meanwhile, the content of the project was about the Son La hydropower plant in the north,” Quang said.
“However, the report was still accepted by the local authorities,” he added.
“The appraisal councils have been established just to approve the reports, not to appraise or examine the reports,” he continued.
The members of appraisal councils easily accept the insignificant reports, because the environmental pollution, if it occurs, will not affect them. Only local residents in the project areas will suffer. Dr Nguyen Van Phuong from the Hanoi Law University said that the environment problems cannot be settled because “enterprises now deliberately violate the environment law, local authorities keep emotionless, while social organizations keep indifferent.”
Who does the law protect?
Dr Phuong, who reviews the 2005 environment protection law as per request by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) in a project coordinated with the government office, has come to a conclusion that the law and legal documents have become unsuitable to the society’s life, which show many provisions overlapping or contrary to the provisions in other laws.
Phuong has pointed out that the law does not clearly stipulate the standards which can serve as the legal foundation for telling the difference between the scrap materials allowed to be imported for local production and the waste which must not be imported.
Pham Chi Cuong, Chair of the Vietnam Steel Association, noted that the provisions in the law show that the law compilers do not understand anything about the old vessel demolishing. As a result, after the 2005 environment protection law took effects, a series of craft villages, specializing in demolishing vessels located from the Hai Phong port in the north to the ports in the central and southern regions have been eliminated.
Commenting about the law, Vu Quoc Tuan, Chair of the Vietnam Craft Village Association, which represents 2800 craft villages and 11 million workers, said that if applying the provisions stipulated by the law, state management agencies and policemen can impose heavy fines on any craft villages, while all the craft villages need to be eliminated, because of them have got polluted.
Deputy Director of the Hanoi Department for Natural Resources and the Environment, Vo Van Khanh, has stressed that it is necessary to harmonize the economic development and the environment protection. In fact, the income of the workers in craft villages is even lower than the expenses the local authorities have to pay to settle the environment problems.
Also according to Khanh, the Hanoi authorities had to spend 300 billion dong just to build a waste water treatment plant that serves three craft villages.