New environmental protection law promotes local activism

Đăng lúc: 04/11/2013 15:42

The new Law on Environmental Protection, currently under discussion by the National Assembly, hopes to incentivise individuals and social organisations to help protect the environment by clarifying the rights of both groups in regard to environmental protection.


The new environmental protection law will empower local communities Photo: Le Toan

For the commune of Thach Son in the northern province of Phu Tho, increased incomes haven’t equalled increased quality of life as the commune is also home to a wide variety of industries which pollute the environment, such as the Lam Thao superphosphate factory, Vinh Phu battery factory, Bai Bang paper mill and 28 brick kilns.

Dang Dinh Bach, director of the Centre for Law and Policy of Sustainable Development Research recently conducted an environmental survey in Thach Son and concluded, “though there are no official public records for cancer statistics for Thach Son, information collected from various local media sources suggests that the incidence of cancer in the commune has been abnormally high for some time. Particularly since 2006, incidents have increased to very troubling levels.”

It is reported that the 100,000-population commune saw 47 new cases of cancer in 2007, 49 in 2008, 55 in 2009 and 49 in 2010. Since 2010, there have been 600-700 cases per year.

“Although there is a good legal framework on environmental protection, there has not been full implementation of relevant laws by local government agencies or enterprises. This has resulted in the persistence of severe environmental risks and health problems in Thach Son,” Bach said.

“People often ascribe pollution to enterprises, without thinking that localities and law makers must be responsible for pollution too,” he said in reference to the existing Law on Environmental Protection, which lacks mechanisms for people to exercise their rights to participate in environmental protection.

Bach expected that the amended Law on Environmental Protection, expected to be passed by the National Assembly at its first session in May 2014, will have sturdy new regulations to help Thach Son’s residents improve their environment.

The new law makes provisions for people’s right to participate in environmental protection. Specifically, social organisations and individuals will be entitled to access information, consult projects, participate in dialogue, participate in supervision, receive the results of investigations and demand state agencies to sue and demand compensation. Furthermore, individuals and organisations will be encouraged and incentivised to participate in environmental protection activities.

However, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Vietnam, more specifics are needed to ensure the feasibility and practicability of the new regulations.

A UNDP document stated, “The new Law on Environmental Protection should provide a time frame and clear mechanisms to implement the rights and responsibilities of social organisations and residential communities. It also needs to establish a legal standing for these communities, so they become a party to environmental disputes and a part of the solution.”

The document says the new law should also supplement provisions on the right of communities to sue in order to create a legal basis for collective lawsuits for environmental cases.

Also the new law needs to supplement provisions of capacity building and awareness raising for residential communities and social organisations, and social-professional organisations.

“The UNDP proposals are correct,” said Bach, “In order to help localities like Thach Son have a better living environment, the new Law on Environmental Protection must strengthen the implementation of public participation in environmental decision-making in villages, including access to information and adequate impact assessment.”

Duong Thanh An, director of the Vietnam Environment Administration’s Department of Policies and Legal Affairs added, “we believe that the development of sound laws is important, but ensuring the enforcement of the law is even more important.”

By Thanh Dat of vir.com.vn



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