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Environment minister talks about achievements, plans for coming years



Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha talks about the achievements of the sector in the 2016-20 period and plans for the coming years.

Environment minister talks about achievements, plans for coming years
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha.

Could you tell us about the performance of the natural resources and environment sector in 2016-20?

The natural resources and environment sector has faced very difficult and turbulent times over the past five years. The fields the sector managed faced unexpected things, especially the field of environment. Environmental incidents occurred in different areas and different projects. The most serious incident is believed to be the marine environmental pollution in four central provinces caused by Formosa.

Besides, other fields such as land management are always among hot topics with a lot of complaints from the people. The illegal exploitation of mineral has also still occurred and the mining process has caused environmental problems, including waste after mining.

The impacts of climate change increased and became more serious over the past five years. Extreme weather occurs across the country, such as extreme cold, landslides, flash floods in the northern high mountainous provinces, droughts in the south-central and Central Highlands, as well as saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta due to the double effects of climate change and the water use of countries in the upstream Mekong River.

To fix the situation, myself and other officials and staff of the ministry have wholeheartedly focused on solving problems.

However, the Party and the State have also assessed 2016-20 was a transition period – from the old period with the policy of all for economic development to a new period – developing the economy together with environmental protection.

Also since 2016, we began to move into a new period. The Government and the Politburo have had guidelines to develop new policies towards economic development without affecting the environment. This is also a very important lesson for the management of natural resources and the environment. The lesson is that if we still hold the policy of developing the economy first and fixing environmental issues later, we will have to pay a very expensive price.

The ministry has contributed VND950 trillion (US$41.1 billion) to the State budget over the past five years. In 2020, revenue from land-related fields was double compared to 2015.

Policies on climate change adaptation were proposed in the period, contributing to minimising damage from natural disasters. The level of damage, triggered by saltwater intrusion in 2019-20, was 9.6 per cent lower than the level of damage caused by saltwater intrusion in 2016. 

As you mentioned, there have been a number of environmental incidents, including Formosa, over the past time. After these painful lessons, how has ministry adjusted its management policies and mechanisms?

After the lessons, we determined we have to carefully consider the investment policy and development planning in the process of verifying an environmental impact assessment.

Second, we clearly define the responsibilities of businesses in the investment process so we can assess, forecast and identify possible impacts, especially emissions, wastewater and solid waste; closely monitor waste sources and take into account technical solutions to prevent environmental incidents. We also categorise 17 industries, identifying the scale and nature of hazard of each industry and thereby defining cases for special surveillance.

Another important lesson is people’s participation in supervision and the responsibility of local authorities. This requires projects to disclose information for people – the “eyes and ears” of the law to detect and we will promptly issue solutions.

Besides, we need stronger co-operation among ministries, sectors and localities as well as among countries in solving environmental problems. For example, in the water resources sector, more than 60 per cent of the water resources in rivers within the territory of Vietnam originate from other countries. Therefore, the management of water resources, especially for the Mekong River, needs the co-ordination of countries in the basin. For plastic waste pollution problem, this is also a global problem, it is necessary to have a global institution. 

Ministries and sectors are paying attention to the programme to plant 1 billion trees, especially during the New Year’s Tree Planting, launched by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. What will the ministry do to implement the programme?

This is the initiative of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, which was raised at the current National Assembly session. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is the agency responsible for forest protection and development. However, from the perspective of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, we are also developing a very specific project for implementing the programme.

I hope every individual, organisation, business and locality has its own initiative for tree planting because this is a very correct initiative. I also emphasise it is time for us to change the individual’s attitude towards nature because nature is facing the huge impact of economic development.

On the side of the environment ministry, we will also consider many angles to carry out the programme so tree planting is not just a movement and doesn’t stop at one billion trees but also helps recover nature in terms of ecology and conserving biodiversity as well as the legacy left to future generations.

Based on different natural conditions, different trees will be planted. Trees, which will be planted in special-use forests, protective forests, industrial zones and roads, are necessary to suit each area to achieve the highest efficiency. Tree planting should be done regularly by all people and localities. The ministries of agriculture and environment need to take the lead in the tree planting programme. 

What will the environment ministry do to help the country develop stronger and be more sustainable?

The things we have done over the years are just building the initial foundations for the development.

In the field of environment, we have a resolution of the Central Committee. Under the resolution, there are important policies that will be announced at the National Congress of the Party. We also have the 2020 Law on Environmental Protection, which will come into effect from January 2022.

Thus, for the environment – one of the three important pillars of sustainable development, we will focus on implementing the law, which focuses on the people – people are not only the law’s implementers but also supervisors.

If every citizen has high determination and considers environmental protection as important as fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the activities of environmental protection, sustainable development and adaptation to climate change will achieve great progress.

Climate change is becoming increasingly extreme and unpredictable. Therefore, the problem becomes how to improve the ability to more accurately forecast, give more timely warnings as well as evaluate climate change’s impacts to make plans timely.

To do that, we need a specific assessment of each area in the country, especially assessments of geological hazards and set up more monitoring networks related to hydro-meteorology in each area. VNS



Plastic bags and products still plague Hanoi



The use of plastic bags and products in traditional markets and shops continues to plague Hanoi.

Household waste, stored in plastic bags, is piled in Hoang Van Thai Street, Hanoi.

Phạm Huy, a small trader in a traditional market in Long Biên District, said plastic bags and products were selling in large quantities in local markets because they were not only cheap but also convenient.

It costs VNĐ30,000 (US$1.3) per roll of 100 plastics bags and VNĐ20,000 ($0.8) for 50 plastic cups, he said.

Huy said the number of people shopping at the market was very large and most of them asked for plastic bags. Few people carried their own bags to the market.

“If we do not use plastic bags, we have nothing to store things for our customers,” he said.

An owner of a food shop in Quán Thánh Street, Ba Đình District, said his customers often asked for takeaway food in plastic containers.

Although he knew of the impacts of plastic bags and products on the environment, he still bought them to store food for his customers, he said.

Hồng Hà, a resident of Ba Đình District, said due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, food and beverage outlets had to close and only sell online.

People often ordered using popular applications such as Grab and Now to eat and drink at home, she said.

The shops often used plastics bags and products to wrap up their wares for shippers to bring to customers, she said.


Lê Tuấn Định, deputy head of the city’s Natural Resources and Environment, said it was estimated that about 6,000 tonnes of waste were discharged daily in the capital, including 60 tonnes of plastic waste.

Plastic waste discharge was believed to increase year after year, adversely affecting the environment, he said.

In response to the situation, the city administration views combating plastic waste as a key task.

In 2019, the city issued Plan No 232/KH-UBND on ‘Preventing plastic waste and bags by 2020, a vision towards 2025’, calling on local administrative and public service agencies and State-owned enterprises not to use disposable plastic products and plastic bags, as well as mobilising organisations and individuals to say no to disposable plastic products.

The department has relevant agencies to strengthen dissemination to improve people’s awareness of the impacts of plastic waste on the environment. The agencies were told to find alternative materials to reduce the use of plastic products.

He said the department would conduct surveys on the use of disposable plastic products and the demand for recycled products to find alternative products to replace disposable plastic in local traditional markets and trade centres.

The department also compiled mechanisms to support enterprises to manufacture environmentally-friendly packaging, he said.

It was strengthening inspections and encouraging enterprises to manufacture environmentally-friendly packaging and pilot training programmes to improve capacity to design environmentally-friendly products for commercial, service and manufacturing facilities in the city.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), around the world, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide annually. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once and then thrown away. — VNS


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Winners of Kovalevskaya Award 2020 announced



Winners of the Kovalevskaya Award 2020, a prize dedicated to outstanding female scientists, were announced at a ceremony held jointly by the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) and the Vietnam Women’s Union Central Committee.

Winners of Kovalevskaya Award 2020 announced hinh anh 1

At the ceremony (Photo: VNA)

A team of female scientists from the Institute of Natural Products Chemistry under VAST, and Associate Professor, Dr Truong Thanh Huong, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Cardiology at the Hanoi Medical University, were honoured this year.

The team studied and created many products with high applicability that have been used widely and served public healthcare, such as “Khuong Thao dan” (a drug for the treatment of arthritis, degenerative spine pain, and bone pain), Cordyceps Sinensis, and essential oils.

Winners of Kovalevskaya Award 2020 announced hinh anh 2

The award is presented to Associate Professor, Dr Truong Thanh Huong, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Cardiology at the Hanoi Medical University (Photo: VNA)

Meanwhile, Huong has made contributions to Vietnam’s health sector by conducting many scientific studies to improve treatment relating to cardiovascular disease.

Speaking at the event, member of the Party Central Committee and President of the Vietnam Women’s Union Central Committee Ha Thi Nga said the award, named after Russian female mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaya, is presented annually to honour female scientists posting remarkable achievements in scientific research and application.

It is presented by a fund of the same name that operates in eight countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

The award has been presented in Vietnam since 1985, during which 20 collectives and 49 female scientists have been honoured./. VNA


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Government shows urgency in climate change battle



In a bid to ensure sustainable development and economic growth, the government has enacted a fresh action programme on continuing response to climate change, with new mechanisms in favour of private investment.

Government shows urgency in climate change battle
As Vietnam is among the most threatened countries by climate change, the state and people take decisive action.  Photo: Le Toan/ VIR

The government has promulgated Resolution No.06/NQ-CP on the Action Programme on continuing the implementation of Resolution No.24-NQ/TW by the 11th Party Central Committee on active response to climate change, improvement of natural resource management, and environmental protection.

The action programme, to be implemented until 2025, lays a foundation for ministries, agencies, and localities to formulate and implement their own plans on responding to climate change while strengthening natural resource management and environmental protection.

Under the programme, efforts are to be made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7.3 per cent below the business-as-usual scenario by 2025, and achieve 5-7 per cent in energy conservation out of gross energy consumption.

To this end, some key solutions are to be taken. Specifically, the government orders ministries and agencies to formulate and implement sturdy policies on shifting to digital economy, and development and expansion of models on circular economy, green economy, and low-carbon economy.

In addition to an increase in state budget in investing into responding to climate change, and managing natural resources and the environment, the government will have a flexible mechanism on allocating the use of natural resources under a market mechanism. Notably, the government will “develop markets for environmental goods and services, the carbon market, public-private partnership models, and green credits and green bonds, as well as mobilise investment capital from non-state sources,” according to Resolution 06.

To enable investors, Resolution 06 stressed that a number of related laws will be revised soon, including the Law on Land 2013, the Law on Minerals 2010, and the Law on Efficient Use and Saving Energy, as well as many other related documents.

Championing the cause 

Disaster and climate challenges have become a top priority for policymakers in Vietnam. This is evidenced in national and sector strategies, and these challenges are identified as one of the key pillars of the new national development plan for the next decade. For example, the government approved the National Climate Change Strategy in 2011, and the Vietnam Green Growth Strategy in 2012, which lay out a vision through 2050. Also, the government adopted the Support Programme to Respond to Climate Change for 2016-2020 that supports policy reform, capacity building, and increased investment for prioritised climate change and green growth actions in key sectors including energy, transport, forestry, and water resource management.

Internationally, the government has also championed the cause of the environment, including at the 2015 Paris Conference.

Climate and disaster risks are now recognised as a direct threat to Vietnam’s aspiration to become a high-income economy. Direct and indirect disaster losses are affecting not only the economy’s resilience and sustainability, but also its capacity to maintain rapid and inclusive growth. For instance, rapid infrastructure development in the absence of the consideration of disaster and climate risks is leading to rapidly growing exposure and vulnerabilities to adverse natural events.

“With an anticipated growth of 265 per cent over the next 10 years, annual average direct disaster losses on the coast alone are expected to grow to $4.2 billion a year,” stated the World Bank in its recently-published report on how Vietnam can become a champion of the green recovery.

The Asian Development Bank also said that the rapid expansion of gross fixed capital formation has been unplanned and without consideration of climate and disaster risks, leading to the rapid growth in people and assets exposed to adverse natural events. When all this environmental damage is combined, it is estimated to cost between 4 to 8 per cent to GDP every year due to a combination of direct negative effects on the stock of natural capital, as well as that of indirect externalities on labour productivity and on quality of physical infrastructure.

In addition, development gains could be undermined by the loss of human life; destruction of commercial property, cultivable land, and infrastructure; reduction in agricultural yields and labor productivity; loss of tax revenues; and strained public budgets from spending on relief and reconstruction. For example, farmers in the Mekong region have already recorded declining agricultural yields caused by poor development practices, including water mismanagement and land exhaustion, according to the World Bank. 

Changing behaviours 

“Vietnam is standing at a crossroads of post-pandemic recovery. It has an opportunity to set itself on a greener, smarter, and more inclusive development path that will bolster resilience to future shocks from both pandemics and climate-related disasters,” said Carolyn Turk, World Bank country director for Vietnam. “The authorities must tackle the environmental and climate challenges with the same sense of urgency as they have done with COVID-19 because the costs of inaction are already visible and will become increasingly irreversible. The recent tropical storms in Vietnam’s central region and rising air pollution in the country’s major cities are good illustrations of this fragility.”

According to the World Bank, two lessons from the successful management of the global health crisis could be extended to the environmental agenda. The first lesson is that the best way to cope with an external shock is to be prepared in advance and move with early and bold actions. Secondly, beyond vision and capacity, the ability to embrace innovation and experiments is instrumental to change individual and collective behaviours, which lays at the root of strategies to cope with health and climate threats.

Ocean levels have already risen 20cm over the past three decades and could increase by a further 75cm by 2050 compared to the latter part of the 20th century. This could lead to flooding of 40 per cent of the Mekong Delta, 11 per cent of the Red River Delta, 3 per cent of coastal provinces, and over 20 per cent of Ho Chi Minh City, directly impacting 10-12 per cent of Vietnam’s population and 10 per cent of GDP, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.  VIR


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