Hanoi (VNA) – Last year, the natural resources and environment sector improved in terms of resources management, environmental protection and coping with climate change, contributing to shifting the national growth model towards sustainability.
However, there remain difficulties that have stopped the sector from completing its targets.
In an interview with VietnamPlus on the occasion of the Lunar New Year, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha expressed his concern over the sector’s shortcomings and talked about the management roadmap of the sector.
What achievements did the natural resources and environment record over the past year?
The year 2018 recorded a change for the sector in management, from passiveness to proactiveness. The sector also focused on addressing its limitations.
Last year, relevant institutions, policies and laws were completed in line with reality. Besides, resources were mobilised to serve socio-economic development and environmental protection.
The sector has provided consultations for the Party and State on the issuance of strategic policies and guidelines during the new development period, including the Politburo’s conclusion on land-related issues and the Party Central Committee’s Resolution No. 36-NQ/TW on sustainable maritime economic development strategy with new policies aiming to turn Vietnam in to a strong sea-based economy.
Besides, administrative reform has been stepped up, with nearly 63 percent of business conditions demolished and amended, and 51 percent of administrative procedures cut and streamlined. Indexes assessing administrative reform and information-technology application have increased each year.
Between 2016 and 2018, the sector conducted more than 7,000 inspections, proposed reclaiming nearly 13,000 ha of land and collected 344 billion VND (14.7 million USD) from fines. In 2018 alone, 695 ha of land were reclaimed and fines amounted to 116 billion VND (4.98 million USD).
Coastal localities have developed dynamically, contributing more than 60 percent of national gross domestic product (GDP). Efforts have been made in scientific research and basic investigations. Water resources have been managed and used economically, for multiple purposes, with proceedings from the granting of exploitation rights worth 7 trillion VND (301,000 USD), of which more than 850 billion VND (36.55 million USD) was recorded last year.
Environmental management methods have been reformed, helping prevent pollution and keep strict control of major projects with high risks of causing pollution like Formosa Ha Tinh, and Lee&Man in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang and Nghi Son Oil Refinery and Petrochemical in the central province of Thanh Hoa, thus ensuring they operate safely, contributing to national growth.
Losses caused by storms and floods in 2018 were reduced compared to 2017 thanks to improvements in the forecasting work. Notably, the early forecast of weather trends has enabled ministries, agencies and localities to take the initiative in setting production and business plans; while infrastructure conditions such as land database and the digitalisation of geographic information systems and remote sensing metadata have been prepared with a view to optimizing achievements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in national development.
Apart from bright points, environmental pollution is sparking public concern and challenging sustainable development. The illegal exploitation of sand and gravel has been reported in many areas. How will the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment deal with these problems in 2019?
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has faced various difficulties in State management. Concluding the conference reviewing the sector’s performance in 2018, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc pointed out four issues of public concern in the sphere of natural resources and environment – air and water resources pollution, natural disasters and climate change.
Besides, he also spoke of wastefulness and wrongdoings in the management and exploitation of land and minerals. Many urban areas are seriously flooded after rains. Some officials in the sector have caused troubles for people and businesses and even committed corruption.
Therefore, the biggest problem lies with how to complete organisation, institutions and policies, develop human resources and address issues of public concern.
The ministry will issue environmental rules and technical standards similar to those in developed countries in the region and the world in order to set up technical barriers in response to pollution and outdated technologies. More extraordinary inspections will be carried out to detect and strictly punish polluting facilities and violations of environmental protection regulations.
Based on that, the sector will address pressing environmental issues like urban and rural solid waste, air and water pollution at industrial parks and clusters and craft villages, while improving the quality of environmental assessment work.
We will also intensify the control and closely monitor waste discharging sources, request industrial parks and clusters to complete centralised wastewater treatment systems before their official operation, set up waste discharge monitoring systems and send statistics to the ministry.
The ministry has submitted a decree on the management of sand and gravel exploitation in rivers to the Government. The document prescribes the management and use planning of sand and gravel in river basins, as well as the responsibility of provincial People’s Committees, ministries and agencies in planning, licensing and managing the exploitation.
The State will organise auctions for mining rights as part of the process to grant permit for sand and gravel exploitation; auctions for dredging projects and the amount of sand and gravel collected from the dredging projects, while encouraging the production of materials replacing natural sand and banning the illegal use of sand and gravel.
The Minister and the Government have paid attention to rural waste in recent times. However, waste treatment has remained a hard task in rural areas, causing serious pollution. What will the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and other ministries and agencies do to address this issue?
Urban and rural waste has become a hot issue in Vietnam. The PM has instructed the clarification of the role and responsibility of State management agencies in urban and rural waste management.
The recent Cabinet meeting touched upon security disorder due to environmental pollution. The Prime Minister tasked the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment with devising a plan on enhancing the capacity for rural and urban waste management and treatment nationwide. The plan should also define clearly the responsibility of State agencies in the field.
Many ministries are in charge of the waste issue at the same time. The overlapping has made it harder to deal with.
With current technological solutions, plus the involvement of the entire political system, localities and the public, we will complete the target of building Vietnam into a re-circulating economy as the Prime Minister said.
The Ministry of Natural Resources has to regard waste as a resource not a source of pollution. Therefore, waste must be recycled, reused and turned into energy and organic fertilisers.
If the Government assigns the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as the main agency responsible for rural and waste management, first of all I will develop a communication programme to raise public awareness of this matter. I think the problem will never be addressed without public participation.
After being classified, waste can be recycled and reused, creating profits and jobs for labourers. Part of the waste will be transformed into electricity or organic fertiliser for agriculture. The remainder will be buried in line with regulations.
In 2019, the natural resources and environment sector will focus on four groups of tasks and solutions, including the completion of institutions and the amendment of the Law on Environmental Protection to reform environmental management in the direction of proactively preventing pollution and building a recirculation economy.
The sector will then promote economic measures in waste management under the market mechanism with the participation of businesses and people, apply technologies in the work and identify the responsibility of management agencies.
You were the minister who got the most questions during the National Assembly’s previous hearing sessions, especially on the Formosa incident. However, NA deputies did not talk much about the incident at the recent legislative meeting. This can be seen as an achievement the natural resources and environment has recorded. What should we do to maintain the achievement in 2019 as the environment remains an issue of public concern?
We have learnt great lessons from environmental incidents caused by major projects. Therefore, we have identified new tasks in management that sectors and investors will not trade the environment for profits.
Following the Formosa incident, environmental managers should use their experience to prevent similar incidents.
To raise the efficiency of State management in natural resources and environment, it is necessary to carry out inspections to detect limitations and shortcomings, and promptly handle violations. What will the ministry do with this in the time ahead?
Inspections will focus on the waste of natural resources, administrative procedures and issues of public concern such as projects using large areas of land and organisations using land sourced from plantations, and the granting of land use right certificates.
Besides, to improve the efficiency of inspections, the sector will conduct more irregular inspections, intensify coordination between inspection forces at central and local levels and with the environment police, and set up information exchange mechanisms to avoid overlaps in the work.
The sector will also organise regional inspections, build a database in service of specialized inspections and diversify information channels to receive public petitions, with the press an effective channel in inspections and settlement of violations, thus helping to raise the efficiency of State management./.