SOCIETY IN BRIEF 19/5

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Illegally imported MSG, jujubes found



The Ha Noi Market Watch officials on Thursday confiscated 2.5 tonnes of illegally-imported monosodium glutamate (MSG) in co-operation with city police at Giap Bat Train Station in Hoang Mai District.

The products, which were made in China, were transported by the Lang Son-based Ngoc Anh Commercial Co. Ltd without any invoice or quality certificates.

On the same day, at the same spot, the officials also confiscated 700 kilograms of illegally imported dried jujubes from a man from northern Ha Nam Province.

On May 15, the Ha Noi People's Committee sent a formal letter to relevant local agencies requesting that they step up inspection activities to prevent smuggling and commercial fraud in the city.

Lumberjacks have cut more than three Sua trees

The Police Department in the central province of Quang Binh on Thursday said that lumberjacks had chopped down more than just three Sua trees in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, contrary to earlier reports.
A Sua tree (Photo: Phap Luat)

According to Nguyen Thanh Thieu, head of the Investigation Agency in charge of the Sua tree criminal case, lumberjacks had cut down more than just the three Sua trees in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.

On the same day, Luong Ngoc Bich, secretary of the provincial Party Committee, was present at the park to instruct on some matters related to the case.

He asked the park management committee to strengthen measures, especially gear up the forest ranger force, to be able to hold back lumberjacks from further chopping down Sua trees, and protect the precious resources of the forest.

He instructed the park committee to mobilise all resources to protect the national park, monitor those going out of the forest, prevent local residents from entering the forest, and crack down on those exploiting, transporting and trading Sua timber.

Nguyen Van Hien, secretary of the Phuc Trach Commune Party Committee in Bo Trach District, said that 11 suspects connected to the Sua trees case have not returned to their locality, probably to avoid arrest.

Old hydrofoils carry higher accident risks, officials warn

Most of the hydrofoils currently operating on the popular HCM City-Vung Tau route are too old and fail to meet safety requirements, officials of the Waterway Safety Management Department warn.

Many of the high-speed boats servicing the route were bought from Russia in the early 1990s and imported to Viet Nam in 1995 or 1996. They have been operating for more than 20 years, according to the city's Department of Transport.

The situation is particularly bad with single engine hydrofoils, of which there are five operating on the route, the officials say.

A number of hydrofoil accidents in recent months have highlighted the safety problem posed by the use of the boats that typically have a life of 10 – 15 years.

The latest incident was reported last Sunday. The engines of Greenline 06, carrying 70 passengers from Vung Tau to HCM City, stalled at the Ganh Rai Bay in Vung Tau. The hydrofoil drifting on the sea for a while before colliding with an oil carrying ship berthed nearby, seriously damaging the hydrofoil.

In March, Greenline 02 suddenly caught fire while fuelling at the Cau Da Port in Vung Tau. The fire was extinguished in five minutes and there were no casualties. The fire broke out in the boat's engine area, according the Waterways Inland Administration of Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province.

Phan Cong Bang, head of the city's Waterway Safety Management Department, said that the engines of many hydrofoils were too old and they were carrying passengers exceeding their capacity.

Although the hydrofoils were checked, maintained or repaired every year, most of them still did not meet safety standards, Bang said.

The Department of Transport said it only checked on the number of passengers on board, availability of life jackets and the driving license of captain. It said the responsibility for checking the safety of the hydrofoils' engines rested with maritime administrations. The transport departments of HCM City and Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province have asked the Ministry of Transport to consider stricter management over the operation of hydrofoils including more regular inspections, maximum period that a hydrofoil can operate and a ban on single engine hydrofoils.

There are 18 hydrofoils currently operating on the HCM City – Vung Tau route, of which 13 are two-engine ships that can carry 132 passengers each. The remaining five are single engine hydrofoils with each capable of carrying 75 passengers, according to the Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province's Department of Transport.

There are three companies that operate hydrofoils on the HCM City – Vung Tau route – Greenline, Vina Express and Petrol Express. They cater to more than 1 million passengers every year, and this number is surging at an annual rate of 20 per cent, according to the HCM City Department of Transport.

Farmer representatives told to push production

National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung called on the Farmers' Association to continue promoting effective production and farming models, thus contributing to push the country's agriculture sector to the next level.

Speaking at the national conference to honour farmers who have achieved excellent business results, head of the Farmers' Association Nguyen Quoc Cuong said the association had been promoting a movement to honour those who practise good farming models since 1989.

According to the association, 53.4 per cent of the country's farmers are recognised for good farming practice and through the movement, many farmers have been applying new farming models, and plant and livestock breeding techniques.

In the future, the Farmers' Association would continue to promote the connection between farming and business and increase effective production-business models that cater to different regions. The association also hoped to recommend policies to the Party and Government that would benefit farmers relating to land, funding and out markets.

NA Chairman Hung also stressed that the Party and Government would provide better conditions for farmers to contribute to the nation's socio-economic development.

He said the association should continue diversifying its programs and working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Planning to make sure these programs are effectively put into practice.

Student discount on train fares to begin

Viet Nam Railway Company will offer a 10 per cent discount on train tickets for students taking the university entrance exams.

Ticket prices apply between May 17 and December 31, the period in which students travel to other cities to take the exam or to enter universities, colleges, technical secondary schools or vocational schools.

Under the plan, students can buy two return tickets at a discount for themselves and one accompanying relative when they receive their exam announcement papers.

When school entry dates are received, students can buy two one-way tickets at a discount, one for the student and another for an accompanying relative.

Viet Nam Railway Company will allow stations to sell discount tickets to students who do not have a red seal in their exam or school-entry announcement papers. Some universities do not put a red seal on the papers.-

More streets off limits to taxis in Ha Noi

Taxis will be banned from operation on some inner streets of Nguyen Chi Thanh (from Lang to Hoang Dao Thuy streets) and Lang (from Thai Thinh-Yen Lang to Chua Lang streets) during peak hours on weekdays.

The ban will be in effect from 6-9am and 4-7pm Monday through Friday from May 20 to December 31, when construction of a flyover bridge on the site is ongoing.

Ha Noi's Department of Transport will also ban all taxis on Mai Xuan Thuong, Hoang Hoa Tham streets (from Ngoc Ha to Mai Xuan Thuong streets) between 6.30-8.30am and 4-7pm all weekdays this month.-

Sewerage hotline opens in Ha Noi

The Ha Noi Sewerage and Drainage Company has set up seven hotline numbers for residents to report problems and submersions during the upcoming rainy season.

Based on local feedback, the company will implement measures to better deal with flooding, said company director Nguyen Le.

Detailed drainage plans are also to be set up for different districts in the city.-

Concrete culverts to prevent loggers

Nam Cao Park Sua trees in northern Ha Nam Province were hedged by concrete culverts to help protect them from loggers, said Nguyen Ba Doan, a park guard.

Previously, the trees were also surrounded by steel wires in Ha Noi to prevent them from being cut down illegally.

Several cases of sua timber smuggling were reported recently with forest rangers seizing more than 600 kg of wood, the largest amount ever, in Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, central Quang BInh Province, last week.

Sua (Dalbergia tonkinensis) timber is considered valuable while the tree itself is listed as endangered in Viet Nam.

AFD offers low-interest loans to Vietnam

The French Development Agency (AFD) will continue to provide between EUR80-100 million in official development assistance (ODA) a year with low interest rates to help Vietnam implement water supply, environmental sanitation and infrastructure projects.

The aid will be carried out in the 2012-2015 period, with water supply and environmental sanitation projects making up one third of the total, Jean-Marc Gravellini, AFD Vietnam Director told Vietnam Investment Review recently.

Gravellini said the French Government has committed EUR350 million to Vietnam to undertake 30 water supply and environmental sanitation projects in the country since 1997. The AFD alone has implemented 13 projects with total disbursed capital of EUR270 million. The French Treasury has financed EU75 million to the remaining projects in provinces and cities across the country.

Over the past seven years, AFD-funded projects have helped build 1,990km of road, zone off 123,500ha of land for agricultural production, increase the number of people accessing safe water by an additional 1 million, and reduce billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

The efficiency of the French development aid is expected to increase significantly when more and more projects will be carried out in the coming years, said Gravellini.

More Vietnamese people will use safe water every day

According to the French expert, two thirds of water supply and environmental sanitation projects have been put into operation and the remaining one third will be completed by the end of 2013.

To name some, a waste water collection and treatment project in the northern mountain province of Thai Nguyen cost nearly EUR16 million, a similar project in the southern city of Vung Tau EUR16 million, and a waste water and solid waste treatment project in the central city of Hoi An EUR8.84 million.

Gravellini confirmed that after 2015 the AFD will provide new aid packages and lobby for other aid sources to Vietnam to carry out projects aiming to improve local people’s livelihood, increase their well-beings, assist farmers and small and medium-sized businesses, and address climate change issues.

Herbicide the culprit of 3 deaths in Quang Ngai

After more than a month of investigation, Quang Ngai Province authorities have concluded that an active ingredient from a kind of herbicide used in Son Ky Commune was responsible for 3 deaths and health problems of 50 others in early April.

The herbicide is KANUP 480SL, which originated from the US and was bottled and provided by a company in northern Bac Giang Province.

Test results of samples of spring water and soil taken from the commune in Son Ha District showed they have been contaminated with glyphosate, a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds, Ho Minh Nen, director of provincial Preventive Health Center, told Tuoi Tre yesterday.

The tests were carried out by the Pasteur Institute in Nha Trang City.

Glyphosate has been found in water samples at a level of nearly 1 mg per liter, while in the soil samples, the substance was measured at up to 14.3 mg per kg. These levels are above the acceptable limits.

KANUP 480SL is among plant protection chemicals that are allowed, but it has high toxicity, according to Son Ha District Plant Protection Station.

“If people have the herbicide stuck in their skin, they may get skin irritation, vomit and even die,” warned Pham Luc, head of the station.

Early last month, 19 people in the commune's Lang Rieng Hamlet were hospitalized for emergency treatment after developing bad health conditions after using and/or drinking the spring water.

Three of them later died.

After the deaths, local residents turned to water from dug wells or from other localities.

Rural training places quality over quantity

A programme launched two years ago to provide vocational training to rural workers through 2020 will focus on quality and not quantity though it targets training 600,000 people this year, an official has said.

Cao Van Sam, deputy head of the labour ministry's Vocational Training Department, said the project steering committee had determined that vocational training must meet the job market's needs in terms of skills.

It had done this to ensure Project 1956, as it is known, met its target of securing jobs for at least 70 per cent of trainees.

"The vocational training models that were adopted successfully in 2009, 2010, and 2011 would continue to be used this year."

Provinces and cities across the nation had reported that they were focused on rural communes that were expanding and had high demand for labour.

This would boost economic development there.

"Farmers are seeking to learn various skills but we think the most important thing is that the skills they learn must be appropriate for the production and economic needs of their localities." Sam said.

The programme first sought to create jobs for rural workers in their own localities before training workers who wanted to work in other localities or overseas.

Jobs related to farming and animal husbandry suitable for each locality would be given priority.

The main aim was to instil knowledge, skills, and attitudes in rural workers to advance the trend of switching from producing for the domestic market to exports.

Despite difficulties in providing jobs and vocational training in rural areas, Project 1956 was going on smoothly.

There was a shortage of vocational teachers, but this was being overcome by recruiting engineers and "good" agriculture and rural workers – identified and awarded annually around the country – and providing them pedagogy skills so that they could, in turn, teach others.

Last year around 450,000 people were provided vocational training under the project.

First wind turbine repair centre to take shape

The Alstom – Phu My Energy Services Joint Venture will be set up to operate a wind turbine repair centre, the first of its kind in Vietnam.

An agreement to this effect was signed between Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) and France’s Alstom in Hanoi on May 18.

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said the establishment of the joint venture is meant to assist electricity consumers in Vietnam, Southeast Asia and across Asia.

EVN General Director Pham Le Thanh said the JV established by the Phu My thermo-power company, the Asia Pacific Alstom company and Alstom Vietnam will operate in the southern province of Ba Ria - Vung Tau.

Alstom President Philippe Cochet said the project will generate over 140 jobs for Vietnamese workers, and help attract investment and create more jobs in modern technology, as part of the group’s development strategy in Asia.

The two sides also signed a memorandum of understanding covering four fields: engineer training for EVN, applying online supervision technology used in power plants, offering solutions to reduce fuel consumption and improve efficiency of power plants, and using thermal waste from industrial plants to generate power.

Administration reform backed by Denmark

The Government of Denmark in Hanoi on May 18 launched the second phase of its good governance and public administration reform programme to support socio-economic development in Vietnam.

The second phase will be implemented from 2012 to 2015 and receive VND270 billion (US$12.85 million) in funding from the Danish International Development Agency and the UK Department for International Development.

The programme will continue its assistance in Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Dien Bien, Lai Chau and Lao Cai provinces to enhance the quality of public services.

Danish Ambassador to Vietnam John Nielsen said that the programme will also work with the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, the National University of Hanoi and the HCM City Law University to strengthen their co-operative research and education capacities.

Centres for research on human rights were established at the two universities, and several related textbooks were published on the subject. Human rights law was incorporated into the curriculum at the law school during the programme’s first phase in the period between 2008 and 2011, he said.

At the launch ceremony, Deputy Chairwoman of the National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan said she hopes that the programme will help promote the development of democratic governance, public management and accountability in Vietnam.

RoK volunteers work in Quang Tri province

As many as 23 volunteers from the Republic of Korea (RoK) have provided free medical treatment and medicines at Vinh Linh Hospital in the central province of Quang Tri.

This is part of activities to mark the 20th anniversary of Vietnam-RoK diplomatic ties and their relationship.

Another volunteering group, including 51 members from RoK and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) will also join diverse activities such as performing Taekwondo, drawing pictures and painting walls for local people during their visit.

$2.1 mil for medical waste treatment in Dong Thap

The Mekong delta province of Dong Thap has received US$2.1 million in aid for a local hospital waste treatment project.

The money will be used to improve the management of waste in four hospitals, namely Dong Thap General Hospital, Sa Dec General Hospital, Hong Ngu Regional General Hospital, and Thap Muoi Regional General Hospital.

The aid is part of the US$155 million hospital waste treatment project, launched by the Ministry of Health last December, with financial support from the World Bank (WB).

The six-year project aims to minimize environmental pollution due to medical waste from hospitals in order to improve people's health. It will help strengthen policies relating to medical waste management and establish solid and water waste treatment systems for at least 150 hospitals.

Dong Thap is among the five Mekong Delta provinces selected to initially be provided with medical waste treatment systems.

Recent statistics from the Ministry of Health show that more than 1,260 hospitals and over 1,000 medical clinics nationwide discharge around 350 tonnes of solid waste and 150,000 cubic metres of liquid waste per day. However, 56 percent of hospitals nationwide have no waste water treatment system.

Thai Binh to pioneer local sustainable energy

The northern province of Thai Binh has been selected as the first locality in Vietnam to implement a five-year project on local energy planning from 2012.

The project is jointly carried out by the cooperative alliance for sustainable energy development in Vietnam and the Mekong region, the Green Innovation and Development Centre, the Centre for Sustainable Water and Resources Development and Adaptation to Climate Change, the sustainable energy organization of Denmark and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.

It aims to encourage local people to use renewable, biomass and biological energy and use them economically to contribute to reducing environmental pollution and meeting the demand of sustainable development.

Dr. Tran Duy Khanh, President of the Thai Binh Union of Science and Technology Associations, which was selected to implement the project, said the use of renewable, biomass and biological energy instead of energy from coal and oil is a choice for sustainable development in future, in the context of the increasing demand for energy.

Six communes in Thai Binh province’s Tien Hai district, including Nam Cuong, Nam Hung, Dong Hai, Dong Phong, Phuong Cong and Bac Hai, are selected for the project, with the first phase lasting from May 2012 to the end of 2013.

OV in Australia - a dynamic community

The Vietnamese community in Australia is an active, dynamic and developing community, said Deputy Foreign Minister and Head of the State Committee for Overseas Vietnamese Affairs (COVA) Nguyen Thanh Son during his visit to Australia from May 13-18.

At meetings with Overseas Vietnamese and students in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney, Deputy FM Son briefed them about the current situation in the home country and the Vietnamese Government’s incentive policy for Vietnamese communities abroad.

He also encouraged them to contribute more to the country’s sustainable development and international integration.

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