In order to promote the role of people and communities in environmental protection, creating a change in the response and handling of environmental pollution cases, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) has established and operated the Hotlines to receive and process information and petitions on environmental pollution from the Central to the local levels. After more than 1 year of implementation, the response and treatment of pollution has many positive changes, contributing to prevention and limitation of environmental pollution nationwide.
1. Results of receiving and processing information and recommendations on environmental pollution through the Hotlines
In 2018, the Environment Hotlines system from the Central to local levels received 1,114 reporting calls from organizations and individuals on environmental pollution, receiving about 80 cases/month on average, taking place on 61/63 provinces. In particular, the Vietnam Environment Administration (VEA)'s Hotline received 926 calls; the hotlines of 20 local Departments of Natural Resources and Environment (DONREs) received 188 calls. Of the total 926 cases on environmental pollution through the Hotline of VEA, there are 74 cases of solid waste pollution (accounting for 8%); 177 cases of wastewater pollution (accounting for 19%); 675 cases of exhaust gases pollution (accounting for 73%). All information received from the Hotline has been referred by the VEA to the provincial and municipal DONREs' hotlines to request verification, processing, reporting to the VEA and feedback to the information providers.
The localities with lots of reported cases on environmental pollution through the hotlines are Hà Nội, Hồ Chí Minh City, Thanh Hóa, Bình Dương, Đồng Nai, Đà Nẵng, Hải Dương, Hải Phòng, Nghệ An, Quảng Ninh, Thái Nguyên... Particularly, Hà Nội and Hồ Chí Minh City have 301 reporting calls through the hotlines, accounting for 33% of the total number of cases across the country (Hà Nội has 104 cases, accounting for 11.4%); Hồ Chí Minh City has 197 cases, accounting for 21.6%).
For information processing, there are 398/926 cases handled and responded to the people (accounting for 43%). The number of cases under the Central authority that has been handled is 2/2 cases (100%). The total number of cases being verified by local authorities is 528 (accounting for 57%). Generally from October 31, 2017 (official operating time of the Hotlines) to the end of December 31, 2018, the VEA's Hotline has received a total of 1,151 reporting calls on environmental pollution.
Through the operation of the Hotlines, it is found that the information on the cases has been quickly and effectively verified in the localities (such as Bắc Ninh, Hải Dương, Hưng Yên, Quảng Ninh, Thanh Hóa, Bắc Giang, Vĩnh Phúc, Kiên Giang) and all the system of state management agencies on environmental management at all levels from the DONREs to the Divisions of Natural Resources and Environment and officials in charge of commune and ward environment are involved. In addition to establishing the Hotlines system to districts, communes and wards and referring reported information in the form of express courier, the localities also call directly to the establishments to verify and directly check the people's reporting.
However, there are still some localities slowly processing the information due to the limited workforce and there are many long-lasting complicated pollution cases, especially in big cities; the operation of the Hotlines in many localities has not really gone into good order, there is still a habit of processing reported information by paper-based method; The dissemination of information on the Hotlines on environmental pollution of the localities is still limited, so the people and organizations in the areas have not yet reached the local authorities’ Hotlines.
Environmental pollution on gaseous emissions is one of the highest reported, accounting for 73%
2. Advantages and disadvantages and some solutions to improve the efficiency of the Hotlines
After more than 1 year of implementation, the operation and maintenance of the Hotlines has created a positive change in the awareness and responsibility of the localities for the reception and processing of information about environmental pollution in the localities in particular and in the focus on environmental protection in general. The local DONREs have directed the related units to verify, process information and provide verifying and processing results to the VEA to respond to or directly contact with the reporting organizations and individuals to resolve the cases. The 2-way reception and feedback between the state management agencies on environmental protection at the Central and local levels has become more and more stringent and effective.
Up to now, all 63/63 provinces have sent officers to monitor, receive and process information and petitions on environmental pollution through the Hotlines, receiving referred information from the Hotline of VEA or directly from the people and organizations in the areas. The 24/7 operation and maintenance of the Environment Hotlines system from the Central to local level has received the support and appreciation of organizations, agencies, mass media and the people, contributing to promoting people's role in environmental protection.
However, the implementation still faces some difficulties and problems. The situation of handling pollution cases in some localities is still slow; the monthly reporting on the results of receiving, verifying, processing and responding to reported information on environmental pollution is not in a timely and complete manner; the cadres and civil servants who directly work on local environmental protection are still limited, so the reception and verification of information face many difficulties; the allocation of funding sources to serve the processing of information provided through the Hotlines is still inadequate. In order to enhance the operational efficiency of the Environment Hotlines in the future, we would like propose some measures:
Firstly, to review and revise the process of receiving, verifying and processing information and petitions on environmental pollution through the Hotlines from the central to local levels in accordance with the new organizational structure of the VEA and actual operation and deployment of the localities.
Secondly, to study the establishment of an Environment Hotlines system at the district, ward/commune levels to give feedback and process information and cases quickly and timely in order to better serve the people.
Thirdly, to develop online software to receive and process information and petitions of organizations and individuals on violations of the Law on Natural Resources and Environment from the central to local levels, as well as to facilitate monthly reporting on the results of receiving, verifying, processing and responding to the information and petitions on environmental pollution.
Fourthly, to promote the information provision and dissemination on the Hotlines system to receive information and petitions on environmental pollution; to well perform the assessment, emulation and commendation for the processing of information and petitions on environmental pollution in the areas; to put this activity into the evaluation criteria of the local annual environmental protection work in order to improve implementation efficiency.
Hồ Kiên Trung
Đặng Quốc Thắng
Nguyễn Thành Trung
Vietnam Environment Administration
(This article was puplished on the Environment Magazine, Enghish I/2019)