Environment ministry proposes to suspend regular pollution surveys

By Gia Chinh   September 24, 2021 | 05:07 pm PT
Environment ministry proposes to suspend regular pollution surveys
Wastewater from factories is flooded onto a street of Phong Khe Village, Bac Ninh, April 2021. Photo by VnExpress/G.C.
The environment ministry has proposed to exempt businesses from carrying out regular environmental surveys as a Covid relief measure, but an expert said the move would be tantamount to management negligence.

The proposal, contained in a draft decree prepared by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for implementing the Law on Environmental Protection, was submitted to the Ministry of Justice Thursday.

The ministry said that the exemption was aimed at supporting "businesses affected by Covid-19."

The ministry has also suggested that the time for businesses to install automatic environment survey systems be extended until the end of 2024, and that those who've already installed systems stop regular surveys until the same time.

As per the proposal, starting 2025, facilities which that have already have automatic environmental survey systems to measure signature pollution metrics are also exempted from regular pollutant surveys.

Facilities that produce dust and emissions between 50,000-100,000 cubic meters an hour would also be exempted from regular surveys if they've already installed the automatic survey systems, it added.

The environment ministry also said while that survey frequencies should actually be higher as facilities produce more pollutants, the new policy would only apply to water pollutants, not air emissions.

"Projects that have protected the environment well for three years in a row, with pollutant metrics within allowed standards and without any violations on emission levels, would be exempt from regular surveys within the specific time period as dictated by their environmental licenses," the ministry proposed.

However, experts say the ministry’s proposal is likely to become counterproductive.

Hoang Duong Tung, president of the Vietnam Clean Air Partnership (VCAP), said exempting regular environmental surveys because of the existence of automatic survey systems is a sign of negligent management and would inflict businesses with losses, especially small and medium ones.

There is no real-time survey system that could provide results per existing standards, so if regular surveys aren't conducted, the government would lack data for management, and businesses would have to pay for survey equipment themselves. Some could use cheap, low-quality equipment and get away with it, Tung said.

"Regular surveys should still be maintained to be a basis for management and punishment of violations. But instead of measuring all the metrics, they can choose to measure certain particular metrics regarding the potential release of pollutants," he added.

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