Vietnam Environment Administration (VEA) was established by the Government’s Decree No.25/2008/ND-CP by merging Vietnam Environmental Protection Agency, Environment Department and Environmental Impact Assessment and Appraisal Department under Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE). The preceding agency of these three departments is the National Environment Agency established in 1992 under Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. This Agency provided a foundation for the establishment and development of the system of state management for environmental protection from the national to the local levels. It also was the foundation for the current VEA.
Right after the VEA establishment, the Prime Minister issued his Decision No. 132/2008/QD-TTg on 30/9/2008 on its mandates, tasks, rights and organizational structure. It has 16 units: 10 administrative and six public service units, with nearly 300 staff. The VEA establishment is a significant milestone in the process of planning and upgrading state management agencies for environmental protection, marking the development of environmental sector in Việt Nam.
1. Ten years of establishment and development
Over the last 10 years, the VEA has changed its mandates, tasks, rights and organizational structure twice. At present it has 18 units, of which 12 are administrative departments and six are public service providers with 536 staff. Among the staff, 26 hold PhDs, 148 have master degrees and 106 have tertiary degrees. The organizational structure has been developed in a direction of simplification, reducing medium staff and met administrative reform requirements. In 2018, three operational agencies were transformed into policy advisory departments. In the meantime, three regional operational agencies in the North, the Centre and Central Highland and the South were upgraded. Three environmental monitoring centres were established in the North, the Centre and the South. This progress promotes regional direction, coordination and operation.
The VEA’s mandates, tasks and rights have been constantly improved, completed and better defined to overcome overlaps, gaps and shortcoming in responsibility division among the ministries and localities. The VEA has been assigned a task of performing professional inspection in environmental protection. It has had additional rights of issuing administrative fines; collating and proposing allocation of state budget for environmental protection for line ministries and localities and providing specific guidance for state management in the areas of environmental impact assessment, pollution control, waste management, biodiversity conservation, environmental health and environmental quality management.
The VEA has advised mechanisms for resource allocation for environmental protection. Since 2006, a state budget for environmental protection (state environmental expenditure) has been given a separate line with no less than one percent of the total state budget expenditure. The establishment of this separate environmental expenditure marked an important milestone for providing resources for environmental activities and supported environmental tasks by line ministries and localities.
Since 2008, the state environmental expenditure has increased step by step. In 2018, it is four times higher than that of 2008. Also, in this period, for the first time the National Assembly approved the national target program on pollution remediation and environmental improvement 2012 - 2015. Thanks to this program, resources were mobilized to remedy pollution and improve the environment in polluting craft villages and pesticide stockpiles. Based on this program results, the National Assembly approved the target program for radically dealing with seriously polluting public service facilities for the period of 2016 -2020.
The VEA’s international cooperation has been boosted, confirming Vietnam‘s status and role in implementing international environemntal agreements and mobilizing ODA for environmental protection. In the period of 2008-2018, the VEA mobilized nearly 800 billion VND from ODA for biodiversity conservation, waste management, pollution control, environmental protection for river basins and environmental monitoring. Resourcces mobilization from private sector has boosted. Monitoring stations, laboratories, equipment and apparatus, and other supportive conditions for environnmental protection have been improved.
Directive tasks have improved and been more flexible to adapt to changed structures of the VEA in different periods. Information technology and e-government have been applied. The VEA has completed a system for a level 3-4 online public services with 27 administrative procedures and introduced online directives related to document management and regular videoconferencing with its regional units. Cooperative mechanisms among internal and external units have been established. Procedures for handling issues and internal administrative procedures have specified clear responsibilties of organizations and individuals. Staff performance evaluation have been introduced. All VEA’s units have developed and applied standard management systems following ISO 9000. In 2012, the VEA’s portal received the 3nd award for Asia Pacific Green E-Government.
Committed to the direction of focusing on local levels, the VEA has increased dialogues and communication with localities to timely understand their difficulties and provide assistance. So far over 600 complaints have been resolved (about 90%). An environmental hot line was introduced in 2007 at both national and local levels. Complaints via the hot line were resolved well, with 450 complaints being completely addressed (about 50%). Cooperation with localities in performing state management in environmental protection has been enhanced through inspection and monitoring of large scale environmental protects.
Despite numerous challenges over the last 10 years, the VEA has spared no effort in accomplishing assigned tasks, contributing to improvement in environmental protection. An environmental legal framework has been established with two important Laws: Law on Biodiversity and Law on Environmental Protection. Other secondary legal documents including 15 Decrees, 98 Circulars, 13 joint agency circulars, 82 environmental technical regulations have provided a relatively comprehensive legal system. Orientations, viewpoints and directions for environmental protection have been mentioned in the resolutions of the Party’s Central Committee and the Polit Bureau as well as in Directives of the Party’s Secretariat and other strategies and programs.
Thanks to effective, innovative and compatible management instruments and policies, the state management of environmental protection has gradually changed from passive to active prevention and control of pollution and environmental incidents, pollution remedy, environmental quality improvement and nature and biodiversity conservation. Facing environmental challenges in rapid development stages, the VEA has paid attention to improving strategic environmental assessment, environmental impact assessment and requested for revision and addition of necessary measures to mitigate negative environmental impacts. It has proposed careful considerations about large scale projects with high environmental risk such as Lạch Huyện Port, Thạch Khê Ore Mine, Central Highland Bauxite Mining and Đông Pao (Lai Châu) Rare Earth Exploitation Project. It also has recommended no further progress of Đồng Nai 6 and 6A Hydropower Project and Posco Steel protect in Vân Phong Bay, Khánh Hòa. Special supervision teams have been established for big projects such as Aluminium Manufacturer in Nhân Cơ, Tân Rai; Hà Tinh Formosa, Lee and Man, Nghi Sơn Oil Refinery Project. Environmental inspection and check have been conducted in 6.400 facilities and industrial parks in the last 10 years, requesting large effluent facilities to install automatic and real time monitoring stations. Environmental monitoring systems have been expanded with over 600 stations nationwide.
Pollution control of important discharge sources such as industrial parks, industrial clusters and craft villages and river basins and urban areas has progressed with over 80% of industrial parks having centralized waste water treatment systems, 85.5% of urban domestic solid waste and 90% of hazardous waste being collected and disposed of properly, and increasing recycled waste. About 12% of municipal wastewater has been treated, increased by 5% from 2010. Pollution remediation has been conducted in 60 pesticide stockpiles, 300 hospitals, landfills and pesticide storage areas and 92% of seriously polluting facilities. Four hundred of chemical and pesticide contaminated sites have been identified.
Nature and biodiversity conservation has continuously received attention which prevented and reduced illegal wildlife poaching and trading, contributing to protection precious genes and species and preventing invasive species. Việt Nam has had five ASEAN environemntally sustainable cities, six ASEAN heritage parks, four ASEAN eco-schools, 6 Ramsar sites, 9 world nature reserve and 2 world nature heritage sties.
In the period of 2008 - 2018, the VEA has developed and issued 10 national state of the environment reports, of which eight are thematic and two are every five year overall assement of the state of the envionment; boosted propaganda campaigns and programs in the forms of contests, communication and education; held important environmental conferences such as National Environmental Conference in 2010 and 2015, virtual national environmental conference in 2016, East Asia and ASEAN Environmetal Minister Meetings, researched and developed environemntal technologies with 67 ministerial level studies, 47 local studies, 463 projects on environmental services, actively participated in 23 international environmental treaties and hundreds of cooperation prrojects with other nations and international organizations, issued 155 Environmental Magazines with thousands of articles, news, photos and distributed tens of thousands of publications nationwide.
With its achievements and effforts, the VEA has proudly received the President’s 2nd Labour Medal, Prime Minister’s Emulating Flag for excelence in environmental protection and MONRE Minister’s awards. In addition, VEA staff and units have proudly received noble awards from the party and the state. One staff was awarded the 2nd Labour Medal, two staff awarded the 3rd Labour Medal, 13 individuals and 19 units under the VEA were awarded certificates of merits from the Governemnt and the Prime Minister.
2. Development of roles and missions and facing challenges in environmental protection in the current period
Environmental protection plays an important role and is one of three pillars of sustainable development. Recognizing its roles and missions, with the mandate of an advisory body of the MONRE in unifying the state management of environmental protection nationwide, the VEA is implementing measures to contribute to prevention, control and remediation of pollution, conservation of the nature values, environemntal protection and sustainable development. To fulfill these missions, it is necessary to be aware of requirements, challenges and difficulties in environemntal protection at present and in the coming periods:
- Our nation’s enviroment is facing great pressure from rapid socioeconomic development which focuses on wide expansión and overexploitation of natural resourcces. Many industrial investment projects with large waste sources pose high risks of environmental pollution due to outdated technology, high energy consumption and insufficient attention to environmental protection. Annually there are thousands of projects subject to environmental impact assessment requirements, generating tens of millions of domestic and industrial solid waste, hundreds of thousands of hazardous waste and creating impact on environmental components, creating pressure on investment in infrastructure for environmental protection. Environmental issues are becoming more complicated and accumulating, posing big threats to environmental protection in the coming periods.
In addition, environmental regulations remain insufficient and fail to catch up with changes in practice, markets and requirements of international integration. Law enforcement capacity remains limited while compliance awareness is low. Although they have been upgraded, central and local environmental protection agencies have not been able to meet the practical demand. Cooperation among agencies remains weak at different levels. Gaps and overlaps in responsibility division exist. There is a lack of inter-regional and inter-sectoral cooperation. Human resources for environmental management are insufficient quantitatively and qualitatively. Despite some progress, investment in environmental protection remains modest and insufficient for addressing increasing environmental issues. Social resource mobilization for environmental protection is yet effective. Breakthrough mechanisms for mobilizing the resources are lacking. There is also a room for applying science and technology results in the 4.0 renovation to bring about necessary breakthroughs for environmental protection.
3. Orientation for the VEA operation in the coming period
To keep up with its achievement, overcome difficulties, challanges and shortcomings to fulfill its tasks and make considerable progress, the VEA needs to develop relevant visions and orientations in the following areas:
- Focusing on advising the direction of improving organizational structure of environmental protection from central to local levels in the new period, towards a model which harmonizes socioeconomic development and environmental protection, in particular for local levels; focusing on capacity building for environmental staff at different levels; and implementing successfully the program “Improving organizational structure and enhancing capacity for environmental staff from central to local levels in the period of 2017 - 2020, visions for 2030”.
- Continuing completing and improving environmental regulations and policies; speeding the process of revising the Law on Environmental Protection; establishing comprehensive mechanisms, instruments, measures, technical regulations, protocols and technical cost norms for environmental protection, ensuring approaching to state of the art qualifications in terms of compatibility and unity with relevant regulations; timely and correctly forecasting environmental issues; and continuing revision to adapt to practical demand.
- Establishing and implementing socilization mechanisms to increase resource mobilization on the basis of partnership among the state, organnizations, scientists, businesses and community in environmental protectio, to ensure polluters pay principle and environmental benificiaries pay principle; effectively use investment resources for environmental protection through appropriately allocating state environmental expenditure and prioritized investment.
- Effectively implementing environmental management mechanisms, instruments and measures, particularly pollution prevention and control, waste management and nature and biodiversity conservation; deploying remote prevention mechanisms to control for the transboundary movement of waste, outdated technologies and polluting manufaturers into Việt Nam; increasing investment in environmental monitoring and early warning systems in key economic zones with large emission sources and environmentally sensitive areas; proactively identifying and timely dealing with emerging environmental issues; and responding to environemntal and pollution incidents.
- Taking advantages of science and technology achivements in the industrial revolution 4.0 in environmental management; focusing on information technology application, administrative reforms, syncronising and modernising environmental information and database; boosting international coperation and mobilizing international resources; and studying and proposing mechanisms for sending environemntal officers in diplomatic missions.
Dr. Nguyễn Văn Tài - Director General
Vietnam Environment Administration
(Nguồn: Bài đăng trên Tạp chí Môi trường, số Chuyên đề Tiếng Anh III năm 2018)