The year 2020, the end of the 2016 - 2020 term, in the context of many difficulties and challenges, especially the serious impacts and effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, but thanks to the drastic, timely and effective direction and administration of the National Assembly, the Government, the Prime Minister, the Leaders of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), the efforts of the Vietnam Environment Administration (VEA), the relevant agencies at different levels, sectors, local autorities, organizations and people, environmental management and protection have achieved positive results in many aspects, of which the following are outstanding:
Establishing a consistent and breakthrough legal corridor to make environmental protection the pillar of the sustainable development process: In the period of 2016 - 2020, the VEA has developed and advised the MONRE to submit to the Government, the Prime Minister to issue 7 Decrees, 3 Decisions, 3 Directives and many other important Plans and Projects; issued under its authority 15 Circulars, 1 Joint Circular guiding the implementation of the Law on Environmental Protection (LEP) 2014 and the Law on Biodiversity 2008 and 12 National Technical Regulations on environment. In particular, the VEA has concentrated all resources and made maximum efforts to implement the direction of the Minister and Leaders of MONRE in developing and submitting to the Government and the National Assembly for consideration and approval of the LEP in 2020 (Law No. 72/QH14). For the first time, the Law is designed as a policy framework aiming to form a basic legal corridor on environmental protection that is holistic, comprehensive and in harmony with the socio-economic legal system. The cross-cutting and central goal of the LEP 2020 is to ensure the quality of the living environment to protect the health of the people, to change the management method in the direction of adhering to reality, meeting the requirements of integration and reform of administrative procedures but it still ensures the effectiveness and efficiency of environmental management tools, focusing on high-risk groups. The Law synchronizes environmental management tools throughout the life cycle of a development investment project, starting from planning, reviewing investment policy, making investment decisions, implementing projects until operating production, trading, and service activities and ending activities. Along with that, the Law has also reduced and simplified administrative procedures, contributing to reducing the compliance costs of enterprises for the group that is less likely to pollute or adversely affect the environment; promoting environmentally-friendly, low-carbon, circulating economic models, investing in restoration of natural ecosystems for both economic development and environmental protection, minimizing the impacts of climate change. With many new and breakthrough points, the LEP 2020 will create great changes in awareness and action in environmental management and protection in order to ensure that environmental issues along with the economy and society must be placed at the center of development decisions, not exchanging the environment for economic growth for sustainable development of the country.
Renovating management thinking, shifting focus from passive response to proactive control and monitoring of environmental issues: Entering the period of 2016 - 2020, the Communist Party and State have thoroughly implemented the policy on economic development without affecting the environment, based on strict management of natural resources and proactive response to climate change. For the environmental management and protection, from being passive, confused in handling and solving cases and incidents of environmental pollution, so far we have established a mechanism to manage and monitor environmental pollution issues, actively coordinated with local authorities and organizations concerned in handling cases of environmental pollution, environmental hot spots. Accordingly, established and maintained 12 monitoring teams for projects and production facilities with high risks of environmental pollution and incidents to ensure these projects operate in an environmentally safe manner that contributes to growth; coordinated investment in installation of 867 waste source monitoring stations with direct data connection to the Departments of Natural Resources and Environment and the MONRE for monitoring and supervision; established and effectively maintained the Environmental Hotline from central to local levels to collect information and solve environmental pollution issues arising from the grassroots.
In addition, the VEA proactively and promptly advised the MONRE and the Prime Minister to direct a number of urgent tasks and solutions on environmental protection; strengthened the management over the import and use of imported scraps as raw production materials; strengthened solid waste management; controlled invasive alien species and air pollution. As a result, the VEA focused on controlling 20-30% of objects at high risk of pollution, controlling up to 80% of environmental problems; resolutely resolved more than 1,000 petitions, reflections received via hotlines (accounting for about 66%); ensured to handle nearly 90% of proposals of businesses and local authorities on time. Thereby, the people's satisfaction index for the state management on environmental protection has increased year by year.
Achieving positive results in waste management, environmental quality improvement, nature and biodiversity conservation: Many investment projects on building centralized solid waste treatment facilities have been put into operation in localities, some big cities such as Hà Nội and Hồ Chí Minh City have invested in and built large-scale solid waste treatment complexes. In the past 5 years, the rate of domestic wastewater collected and treated, the rate of domestic solid waste collected and recycled have continuously increased; the rate of landfilling has decreased; hazardous waste is better controlled and managed through strict control of the source, collection, storage, transportation and treatment. The rate of domestic wastewater collected and treated has reached 13% (an increase of about 6% compared to 2016); the rate of solid waste collected and treated in urban areas averaged about 92% (an increase of 7% compared to 2016) and in suburbs of urban centers averaged about 66% (an increase of 15% compared to 2016); the rate of hazardous waste treated reached 85% (an increase of about 6% compared to 2017); completed the thorough handling of 340/435 establishments seriously polluting the environment (an increase of 30.2% compared to 2016); the number of communes meeting the new rural environmental standards increased by 8.3%. The number of protected areas, Ramsar sites in the country continues to increase. Currently, the country has 172 protected areas, including 33 national parks; 65 natural reserves; 18 species and habitat reserves; 56 landscape protected areas (an increase of 6 protected areas compared to 2016); 9 Ramsar sites (an increase of 2 sites compared to 2016); 10 ASEAN Heritage Gardens (an increase of 4 ASEAN Heritage Gardens compared to 2016).
Promoting digital transformation, increasing the application of information technology, developing an e-Government in environmental management and protection: With diversified and urgent activities, while the human resource is limited, the VEA attaches great importance to the application of information technology in direction and administration, serving state management tasks. Accordingly, the VEA has performed more than 50% of online public services at level 3 and 4 in settling environmental administrative procedures; established and organized hundreds of online meetings, conferences, seminars; developed national environmental database; strengthened the system of environmental monitoring, supervision and warning from the central to local levels and grassroots levels; put into use the Envisoft application on mobile devices to publish information online on air quality (VN AQI) nationwide for the community, up to now it has been connected with the National Public Service Portal.
However, to date, there are still many limitations in environmental management and protection in the country; the environment has been under great pressure from the sources of environmental pollution; the number, size and extent of impacts from the operation of industrial zones, urban centers, craft villages, and production, business and service establishments have increased. Many environmental problems remain, especially air pollution in big urban centers and cities; domestic waste, especially rural domestic waste, has not been sorted, collected and treated effectively; domestic wastewater, wastewater from craft villages and industrial clusters generated more and more while collection and treatment infrastructure did not meet the requirements; the area of natural ecosystems has been narrowed due to the change of land use purposes, forest fires and deforestation have increased. Wild flora and fauna continued to decline; risks from invasive alien organisms and risks from genetically modified organisms remain.
Overview of the VEA’s Meeting on review of 2020 activities and directions for tasks of 2021 on 22 December 2020
The year 2021 is of particular importance, the first year to implement the 10-year socio-economic development strategy 2021- 2030, the 5-year socio-economic development plan 2021-2025 and 5-year plans on the different fields. It is forecasted that the world and regional situation will continue to develop complicatedly and unpredictably, countries are increasingly focusing on environmental technical barriers, the trend of shifting backward and environmentally unfriendly technologies into the underdeveloped countries continues to take place. The Covid-19 pandemic cannot end soon, the negative impacts may last long, affecting many sectors and fields, including the environmental field. Trends in investment, trade, digital transformation, along with rapid changes in business models, production and consumption methods, social communication, science and technology... continue to grow. In the country, in addition to the opportunities, advantages and inheritance of the results achieved in the previous period, the impacts of epidemics, climate change, digital transformation trends, requirements for development investment to ensure rapid and sustainable economic growth will have impacts, creating great pressure on environmental protection, while resources, awareness and responsibility for environmental protection are still limited. These will be the challenges facing the environmental protection in 2021 and the following years of the period of 2021 - 2025.
With important results basically achieved, overcoming difficulties, turning challenges into opportunities, creating a strong foundation for environmental management and protection in the period of 2021-2025 towards sustainable development, the VEA shall focus on performing the following key tasks:
First, continue to improve mechanisms, policies and laws on environmental protection; regulations and standards to meet the requirements of practice for the period of 2021-2030 with three main contents:
- Focus on developing and submitting on schedule, ensuring the quality of Decrees and Circulars guiding the implementation of the LEP in 2020 to ensure the implementation of the Law from 1st January 2022; Circular providing technical regulations on environmental monitoring; National strategy on biodiversity for the period of 2021 - 2030, with a vision to 2050; Project on inventorying, monitoring, reporting and developing biodiversity database for the period of 2021 - 2030, with a vision to 2040; National action plan for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands in Việt Nam for the period of 2021 - 2030; List of important wetlands nationwide.
- Develop the National environmental protection plan for the period of 2021 - 2030, with a vision to 2050; National biodiversity conservation plan for the period of 2021 - 2030, with a vision to 2050; Master plan on national environmental monitoring for the period of 2021 -2030, with a vision to 2050.
- Develop and complete the system of national regulations and standards on environment in accordance with the LEP in 2020, including new groups of environmental standards such as waste management standards, especially in the field of domestic solid waste treatment to suit current technologies such as domestic solid waste treatment combined with energy recovery, gasification…; regulations on transport vehicle gas emissions; regulations on the limits of persistent pollutants in raw materials, fuels, materials, products, goods and equipment. Review and develop technical processes, unit price norms for state management of environmental protection.
Second, work closely with ministries, sectors and local authorities to deal with the environmental pollution issues associated with a large number of people. The focus is on implementing the Prime Minister's Directive No. 41/CT-TTg of 1st December 2020 on number of urgent measures to strengthen the solid waste management; Prime Minister’s Directive No. 03/CT-TTg of 18 January 2021 on strengthening air pollution control; increasing measures to monitor and control waste sources discharged into polluted river basins and polluted surface water sources in urban areas, residential areas and key economic regions; speeding up the relocation of industrial production establishments that pollute the environment or are inconsistent with the planning out of urban areas and residential areas. Strengthen and efficiently operate the environmental pollution hotline from the central to the district level across the country to solve the environmental pollution issues right from the specific grassroots and areas. Actively review, grasp and promptly handle information reflecting and recommending on environmental pollution on media and press agencies.
Third, proactively prevent, supervise and control projects and waste sources that are at high risk of polluting the environment. Formulate regulations on environmental criteria for development investment selection and decision; classify projects from the stage of investment preparation, proactively prevent and control the group of projects with high risk of pollution; continue to innovate, to improve quality and efficiency of strategic environmental assessment, environmental impact assessment; continue to proactively carry out environmental monitoring activities for large facilities and projects with high risks of polluting the environment, ensuring that projects operate safely on the environment through continuing to maintain, strengthen and improve operational efficiency, environmental monitoring mechanisms, not letting serious environmental problems occur; strictly control the environment in industrial parks, industrial clusters and craft villages; organize to urge, guide and inspect the work of thoroughly handling pollution in 47 particularly seriously polluting craft villages; strengthen coordination with Ministries inistries, sectors and local authorities to promptly and effectively respond to environmental cases and incidents that arise.
Fourth, improve the efficiency of nature and biodiversity conservation. Promote activities to protect and restore important natural ecosystems; expand the area of natural reserves and natural heritages; enhance control of negative impacts of projects and economic activities on nature and biodiversity; review, evaluate and propose a plan to amend the Law on Biodiversity; formulate a master program on conservation of endangered precious and rare species prioritized for protection.
Fifth, focus on inspecting and investigating the compliance of the legal provisions on environmental protection for 17 types of industrial production that are at risk of polutting the environment, hazardous waste treatment facilities, facilities with large volume of gas emissions, facilities and projects that have great impacts on natural heritages and biodiversity according to the legal provisions.
Sixth, enhance the capacity of environmental quality monitoring and warning. Focus on well implementing periodic environmental monitoring program, especially the system of air monitoring stations to provide information on air quality to the people and organizations; strengthen capacity of urban air monitoring system, capacity of environmental monitoring in regional centers; improve management efficiency and operational quality of environmental monitoring activities.
Seventh, promote the application of information technology and implement digital transformation in the environmental field. Effectively implement the provision of online public services at levels 3 and 4 for 100% of environmental administrative procedures; integrate, provide on the National Public Service Portal for service groups related to appraisal and approval of environmental impact assessment reports and environmental licensing; connect and share digital data on the Government Report Information System in service of the Government's and Prime Minister's direction and administration; develop and form a synchronous, unified national environmental database and information system connecting and sharing from the central to local levels; increase the use of online working methods in directing, administering and performing tasks.
Eighth, strengthen propaganda, education, awareness raising on environmental protection, promote the role of socio-political organizations, communities in environmental protection. Focus on propaganda and introduction of the provisions of the LEP 2020, implement strong communication models to create a unity in the whole society on awareness and action on environmental protection, especially the LEP 2020. Discover and replicate good models, good practices; promptly commend and praise collectives and individuals with achievements and initiatives in environmental protection. Effectively promote the role and participation of socio-political organizations, communities, the masses of the people from policy making, monitoring of law policy implementation and mobilizing resources for investment in environmental protection.
Director General of Vietnam Environment Administration
(Source: Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine, English Edition I - 2021)