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Thứ Bảy, ngày 21/05/2022

The Draft Law on Environmental Protection (amended): Overcoming inadequacies and difficulties in air quality management

21/12/2020

    In recent years, the process of socio-economic development on the one hand has created a new impetus for Việt Nam’s renovation and integration process, raising the income of the people, and also making an important contribution to raising the position and power for Việt Nam in the international arena. However, on the other hand, Việt Nam is also facing many challenges, environmental pollution, including aerial environment pollution in the integration and development stage.

    Air pollution is not only a problem of developed urban areas, industrial parks and clusters... but has become a concern of the whole society. Air pollution is considered to be one of the threats that seriously affect the quality of environment and public health. With a view to ensuring people’s right to live in a clean environment, the Law on Environmental Protection (LEP) is being amended and supplemented with provisions aiming at overcoming the current inadequacies in the management and protection of environment components, including air quality.

State of air pollution in Việt Nam

    The issue of air pollution, especially total suspended particles (TSP), fine dust (PM10, PM2.5) is becoming a big challenge for the environmental management of urban governments, particularly in big cities like Hà Nội and Hồ Chí Minh City. This is a general trend of developing countries and Việt Nam is not out of it. With recent rapid growth, sources of exhaust gas from transportation activities, industrial parks and craft villages, urban, rural development and outdoor burning activities on the rise require the consistent attention and management of all levels, sectors and especially local governments.

    According to the monitoring results of 13 automatic and continuous monitoring stations in Hà Nội City (1 station of the Vietnam Environment Administration at 556 Nguyễn Văn Cừ, 10 stations of Hà Nội City, 1 station of the Embassy of France and 1 station of the US Embassy), sometimes at the end of the year, air quality was assessed following the fluctuation trend of PM10 and PM2.5, leading to fluctuations in air quality index (AQI), AQI increases sharply and locally in some areas. Monitoring results of DONRE and automatic monitoring station of US Consulate in Hồ Chí Minh City showed that the PM2.5 dust concentration in the air has increased sharply due to the temperature inversion, photochemical smog. However, for most of the time, the value of PM2.5 dust concentration in the City is still within the permitted limits of QCVN 05:2013/BTNMT.

    Through comparison of data of 15 automatic monitoring stations installed by US Embassies/Consulates in cities of some Asian countries in the period 2016 - 2018, it showed that the air quality in Hà Nội City in 2016, 2017 ranked 10th out of 15 Asian cities (of which No. 1 is the highest air pollution level); In 2018, the air quality in Hà Nội City improved by 1 rank, standing at 11/15. Meanwhile, the air quality in Hồ Chí Minh City in all 3 years from 2016 to 2018 was ranked 15/15, the best among the 15 cities where the US Embassies placed monitoring equipment. In the first 4 months of 2020, Hà Nội had 47,3% the number of days having 24-hour average PM2.5 value exceeded the permitted limits; including days of high pollution levels (14 January, 2 February, 20 February and 16 March), the 24-hour average PM2.5 value exceeded 2 - 3.4 times the permitted limits of QCVN 05:2013/BTNMT. In the period from 20 March to the present, including the social distancing period, the air quality in Hà Nội City tends to be better than the previous time, however, due to the weather, there are some fluctuations in some days. Through monitoring, the number of road vehicles in the inner city after the social distancing period increased more than in the previous days, the PM2.5 value also started to increase.

    As such, it is possible to identify the air pollution problem in Hà Nội and Hồ Chí Minh City in particular and urban centers in general throughout the country mainly focuses on dust pollution, especially PM2.5 fine dust. Other parameters (NO2, O3, CO, SO2) are still within the permitted threshold of QCVN 05:2013/BTNMT. PM2.5 dust and AQI are worse at night and early in the morning, when the weather and climate conditions (temperature inversion phenomenon) are disadvantageous combined with the pollution sources inherent in the activities of people, industrial, agricultural production, transportation, urban and rural development and straw burning activities in the harvest season... The rest of the day when there is a change in weather conditions, air pollution problem due to these parameters will decrease. The main sources causing air pollution include exhaust gas from a large number of motorized vehicles, including many old vehicles, especially motorcycles and motorbikes, which do not meet gas emission standards; gas emissions generated from industrial production establishments which have fired fossil fuels have not yet been treated satisfying QCVN; activities of constructing new works, renovating and repairing roads due to not seriously implementing dust shielding; vehicles transporting building materials and wastes, not washing vehicles before leaving the construction sites; outdoor burning of straw, burning of wastes, including wastes not in compliance with regulations in some localities; using large quantities of coal and honeycomb charcoal stoves for cooking in daily life as well as for business. In addition, the aerial environment is strongly influenced by objective causes due to the weather and climate during the time of season change, when there is temperature inversion phenomenon.

Assign and specify responsibilities for aerial environment quality management in the Draft LEP (amended)

    Facing the state of air pollution, in recent time, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) has issued many documents to request the People’s Committees of the provinces, cities and Ministries, sectors concerned to actively implement measures to prevent and reduce air pollution in urban areas, including Hà Nội and Hồ Chí Minh City to improve urban air quality.

    In particular, MONRE is also urgently reviewing, supplementing and finalizing provisions on aerial environment protection in the Draft LEP (amended). Accordingly, the contents of aerial environment protection are specified in a separate section in Chapter 2 of the Draft, in which, focusing on prevention and control of environmental pollution; setting up environmental technical barriers, technical regulations and standards, close to the standards of advanced countries in the world, detailing the contents of aerial environment protection such as: Air quality must be monitored, supervised, alerted in time and published periodically according to regulations; also, the sources of exhaust gas emissions that adversely affect the environment must be minimized and reduced by concerned organizations and individuals, meeting environmental technical regulations; Trans-boundary, inter-provincial sources polluting the aerial environment, large exhaust gas emission sources and exhaust gas emissions from the use of fossil fuels must be monitored, assessed and controlled; The aerial environment quality management shall comply with legal provisions and air quality management plans promulgated by competent state agencies. The air quality management plan is the basis for the provincial People’s Committee to evaluate the aerial environment management and quality.

    The Draft LEP (amended) supplements some new provisions, such as: Stating “The aerial environment quality management is implemented in accordance with legal provisions and air quality management plans are promulgated by competent state agencies”; Stipulating that People’s Committees of provinces and cities formulate and implement “Local air quality management plans” with specific contents on the basis of “Technical guidance on air quality management planning” of MONRE. Specifically, the localities must perform the following tasks: Assess air quality; Identify air quality management viewpoints and objectives; Assess the state of air quality management including monitoring air quality, identifying and assessing major gas emission sources, inventorying emissions, modeling air quality, organizing personnel, resources, inspection and investigation; Assess the impact of air pollution on public health; Analyze and identify the causes of existing air pollution problem; Consider, evaluate and analyze the cost-benefit of air quality management measures, thereby identify the preferred implementation measures.

    Along with that, the Draft LEP (amended) also stipulates and clearly assigns responsibilities of the Prime Minister to issue the National Action Plan on aerial environment quality management and to direct organization for implementation; to direct the implementation of emergency measures in case the aerial environment quality is seriously polluted in the inter-provincial and inter-regional areas.

   MONRE is the focal point for overall management of environmental protection, management of waste sources polluting the environment nationwide; assumes the prime responsibility for organizing the implementation of the National Action Plan on aerial environment quality management; assumes the prime responsibility for formulating and promulgating environmental technical regulations on waste sources, including exhaust gas emission sources polluting the environment.

    Ministries, ministerial-level agencies and government-attached agencies shall organize activities of preventing, inspecting, supervising and reducing sources of dust and exhaust gases causing air pollution, and managing aerial environmental quality in the fields under their management (detailed in the guiding documents and Resolutions, Directives of the Government and the Prime Minister).

    Provincial People’s Committees formulate and implement local aerial environment quality management plans and organize for implementation; direct the implementation of emergency measures in case the aerial environment quality is seriously polluted in the area of management.

    Organizations and individuals that pollute aerial environment are responsible for reduction and remediation, ensuring the aerial environment quality in accordance with regulations.

    In addition to legal instruments, national environmental technical regulations are the main instruments for managing aerial environment quality, controlling air pollution due to emissions generated from socio-economic development activities. The Law on Standards and Technical Regulations defines the responsibilities of MONRE as the leading agency in formulating and promulgating environmental technical regulations for waste sources (wastewater, exhaust gas, solid waste). Also, Point b, Clause 2, Article 113 of the LEP 2014 stipulates that “Group of technical regulations on exhaust gas from mobile and fixed sources” under the system of environmental technical regulations which the MONRE is assigned to formulate and promulgate according to the provisions of Clause 2, Article 118 of this Law. As such, MONRE is currently responsible for formulating and promulgating a system of technical regulations on aerial environment quality, exhaust gas from industrial production, waste incinerators as well as environmental technical regulations for emission sources from transportation vehicles to ensure the assignment of a leading agency, which is primarily responsible for the control of exhaust gas sources and management, improvement of the aerial environment quality.

    In order to further improve the system of legal policies and the system of environmental technical regulations on air pollution control, the Draft LEP (amended) more clearly defines the responsibilities of the MONRE in formulating and promulgating environmental technical regulations on exhaust gas from mobile and fixed sources, belonging to the group of environmental technical regulations on emission sources to achieve effective management.

   It can be said that the Draft LEP (amended) has been supplemented and completed in the direction of timely institutionalizing many new guidelines of the Party and the State related to environmental protection, harmonizing the approach to international laws, proposing to amend many contents on environmental quality management in accordance with the practical situation, aiming to protect people’s health. In particular, regarding the issue of air pollution, the Draft LEP (amended) also introduces new provisions to deal with inadequacies and difficulties in aerial environment quality management, emergency measures in case of serious air pollution. These are provisions that promise to bring about positive changes in environmental management in general and aerial environment quality management in particular, contributing to the sustainable development of the country.

Lê Hoài Nam

Director General, Department of Environment Quality Management (VEA)

(Nguồn: Bài đăng trên Tạp chí Môi trường số Chuyên đề Tiếng Anh III/2020)

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