Experts have called for professionalising environmental management and protection and scrapping contradictory environmental regulations.
They told a seminar held in HCM City last Friday to review the Government's management of the environment that it is necessary to have proper delegation of authority and close co-ordination among relevant ministries and local environmental protection agencies.
Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Bui Cach Tuyen said much progress has been made by the Government in managing the environment, with the result that pollution had declined sharply.
There were comprehensive policies for managing the environment, especially laws on its protection and bio-diversity, he said.
"Pollution in urban areas, industrial zones, craft villages and river basins have gradually been brought under control," Tuyen said.
Officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said, however, that there remained a lot of shortcomings in environmental management that need to be addressed to achieve sustainable development.
Delegation and decentralisation of authority had not been carried out properly, they said, while the management system at both the national and local levels was incomplete, leading to a shortage of high-calibre environmental officials.
Awareness of environmental protection among industry and the public was low and nothing was being done to mitigate this, they added.
Delegates blamed the poor management and lack of comprehensive policies for the increasing pollution of major rivers by industrial parks and enterprises who dump untreated waste.
Taiwanese-owned food seasoning maker Vedan is the biggest offender caught so far. It discharged untreated wastewater for 14 years into the Thi Vai River in Dong Nai Province near HCM City.
The pollution, discovered three years ago, caused losses estimated at VND1.7 trillion (US$82.5 million) to farmers.
Recent instances of pollution that have come to light were by the State-owned Sonadezi company and Thai Tuan Group's textile and dying plant. The former was caught red-handed discharging wastewater into the Dong Nai River in Dong Nai, and the latter into the Tham Luong Canal in HCM City's District 12.
Tuyen said: "Having policies and legal documents to comprehensively and scientifically protect the environment is extremely necessary amid the pollution."
Environmentalists suggested measures to create an effective and comprehensive environmental management system by the Government.
Most agreed that the 2005 Law on Environment Protection needed to be reviewed and amended. They called for spelling out the responsibilities and roles of ministries and local agencies in enforcing environmental protection policies.
They also called for strengthening the role of the departments of Natural Resources and Environment in the southern region in advising provincial People's Committees on environmental protection.
Developing a long-term strategy for training environmental officials at all levels was also a key necessity, they added. — VNS