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Vietnam’s environment will continue being seriously polluted because some polluting firms may not be banned from the country until 2016. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s (MoNRE) draft plan on radically removing establishments with serious environmental pollution, it is not until 2016 that all establishments of this type will be permanently banned from operations.
Under the draft plan, during 2012-2015, Vietnam will radically remove all these establishments already blacklisted. Meanwhile, during 2016-2020, these establishments will be shut down if they fail to obey environmental protection regulations. “In case the establishments do not implement decisions on stopping their operations, authorised agencies will coerce them to shut down operations,” said the draft plan. The number of blacklisted establishments with serious environmental pollution reduced from 3,856 in 2008 to only 372 now, the MoNRE reported.
However, MoNRE deputy minister Bui Cach Tuyen said the ministry was asking localities nationwide to blacklist new establishments with serious environmental pollution. Only 25 localities had submitted their blacklists to the MoNRE, with solutions proposed.
“We cannot close the door of polluting firms permanently before 2015 because we have many things to consider. For instance, when a firm is forced to shut down, thousands of people will become jobless. Moreover, forcing a polluting firm also relates to various laws like Investment, Commerce and Electricity, so we will have to have a road map to totally stop operations of firms with serious environmental pollution,” Tuyen said.
Luong Minh Thao, deputy director of the Ministry of Public Security’s National Environmental Police Department (C49), said it would be complicated to shut down a polluting firm now, because the existing Environment Protection Law had opaque provisions. “In many cases, violators earn fines only, while they should face criminal charges. In other cases, polluters have no other choice than violating the laws.”
Over the last five years, C49 has dealt with 20,000 law environmental violation cases, but none had been put for legal proceedings or even none of polluting firms had been closed forever. For instance, it was impossible to take legal proceedings against South Korea’s Vedan glutamate maker for its discharging untreated toxic waste water into southern Dong Nai province’s Thi Vai River.
“The maximum punishment now is a fine of VND500 million ($24,000), while only some polluters have been fined at maximum VND300 million ($14,420). Thus to totally shut down operations of a polluting firm, more heavy punishments must be devised,” he said.