3.1. Industrial development and Environment
In June 1996, there were only 16 industrial zones (including 12 industrial zones and 4 export processing zones). By June 1999 their number had increased to 62 industrial zones, 3 export processing zones and a high technology zone that were distributed in 27 of the 61 provinces and cities. Of these, 15 zones are based on available enterprises that were already in operation, 31 zones on small scale enterprises, and 20 new modern industrial zones. Only 22 industrial zones have completed construction of the infrastructure, while only 5 zones have central common effluent treatment plants in operation.
* Old industries
The old industries that were installed before 1975 are mostly medium and small-scale industries, distributed throughout the country. Their production technologies are backward, causing pollution of air, water environments and discharging solid wastes into the surrounding areas. According to current estimates, only 20% of the old industrial enterprises have renovated and modernised their production technologies. Around 90% of the old enterprises do not have any waste water treatment system and most of the old industrial zones do not have a central wastewater treatment plant. Therefore, industrial waste water is only treated superficially, then discharged directly into surface water sources, causing grave pollution in some rivers.
Air environment is polluted by dust that exceeds the acceptable limits by 1.5-3 times and 2-4 times in the old industrial zones and surrounding residential areas, respectively.
The industrial solid wastes are not yet separated and collected to be treated properly, which causes urgent environmental problems at the present time.
* New industries
new industries were installed after the national plan on environment and
sustainable development was adopted in 1991 and the Law on Environmental
Protection was promulgated in 1994. Therefore, pollution control measures
such as cleaner production adoption and environmental impact assessment
have been applied for those industries since the initial stages of their
establishments. However, environmental impact is individually
assessed only for each project. The assessment of the cumulative impacts
made by several projects invested in the same area is still neglected. As
an example, Thi Vai river (Dong Nai province) is seriously polluted as a
result of the cumulative impacts made by many projects operating in the
3.2. Urbanisation and Environment
* Urbanisation generates huge pressure on environment
Together with industrialisation, the urbanisation process in Vietnam proceeded rather rapidly. In 1990, there were only 500 large and small urban centres, which have grown to 623 at present. These include 4 cities directly dependent on the Central Government (Ha Noi, Hai Phong, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang), 82 cities and towns belonging to the provinces, and the remainders are 537 small towns belonging to the districts. The change in the percentage of urban population occurring during 1980-1999 and its forecasted number for the year 2020 is shown in Figure 4. Urbanisation has led to an increase in the number of both official and unofficial migrants from rural to urban areas. This creates a pressure on housing and urban environmental sanitation.
Although much attention has been paid to the improvement and the expansion of urban infrastructure during last several years, the transportation, water supply and drainage systems in the urban centres of Vietnam are still poor and deficient. Both domestic and industrial wastewater, as well as storm water shares the same drainage. The common facilities for wastewater treatment are not available. Therefore, wastewater is treated only superficially and then discharged directly into rivers and lakes causing serious pollution of surface water environment. During rainy season drainage system is unable to keep up with the volume of water flow, causing inundation in many urban centres. The percentage of urban population accessing potable water supply nation-wide averages out at only 47% and 53% in 1995 and 1998, respectively. The urban roads are narrow and of low quality, causing traffic jam during the rush hours, particularly in large cities.
Surface water environment in urban centres is polluted, even with some places being heavily polluted due to the direct discharge of untreated wastewater into the waterways. It is often polluted by organic wastes such as COD, BOD5, nitrites, nitrates and suspended solid matters. The concentration of these pollutants is always 2-5 times higher than the acceptable limits set for surface water resource (as stipulated in category B of Vietnamese Environmental Standards). In some areas it is 10 to 20 times higher than the standard. The index of E. coli exceeds the acceptable limit by hundred times. The waterways in some cities are black and stinking.
The major sources of air and noise pollution in urban areas are from the transport vehicles and the industrial establishments scattered in residential areas. Air pollution caused from dust is common in all the urban centres. The daily average concentration of dust exceeds the acceptable limits by 1.5 to 3 times, even higher in some areas. In general, air environment pollution caused by hazardous emissions such as CO, NO2, SO2 has not yet occurred in urban centres of Vietnam, except in some industrial zones within the cities. Lead concentration in the air on large routes and crossroads in 4 major cities approximates the permissible limits (0.005 mg/m3). Noise level at night in urban quarters is approximate or less than 70 dBA, but during the day, it is higher than 70 dBA; in some cases it probably reaches 90 dBA.
The per capita daily amount of solid
waste released in 4 big cities (including Ha Noi, Hai Phong, Da Nang and
Ho Chi Minh) and in the other urban centres over the period of 1996 – 1999
averages out at the range of 0.6-0.8 kg/person/day and at about 0.3-0.5
kg/person/day, respectively. The percentage of solid waste that is
collected ranges from 40% to 70%. All kinds of solid wastes (including
domestic waste, industrial waste and hazardous waste) are dumped in the
same landfills without separation. The constructed landfills are
technically poor and unsanitary, causing pollution of the surrounding
environment. However, for the last 2-3 years, many urban centres have
started to invest in the installation of incinerators for the treatment of
hazardous solid wastes released by hospitals. This shows a significant
progress in dealing with the problems of solid waste.
3.3. Rural environment and agriculture
In recent years, due to progress in intensive farming, increase in cropping frequency and the area under cultivation the production of cereals has grown rapidly. In addition to agricultural development, artisanal production and development of small industries in rural areas has resulted in the formation of specialised villages located in all provinces and in the suburbs of cities. However, this has also resulted in some environmental problems.
Over the years, the damage caused by pests has been increasing both in the extent of area affected and the intensity. Therefore, the use of pesticides in agriculture increases more with each passing day. Overuse and abuse of pesticides has resulted in local pollution to the water and soil environment and is also responsible for poisoning the users.
* Environmental pollution in artisanal villages or communes
During the industrialisation process, artisanal production and small industries were rehabilitated and developed in many traditional artisanal villages or communes. According to some estimates, there are more than 1,500 specialised artisanal villages. The popular trades of these villages are food processing, home appliances production, building materials production, textile, dyeing, paper-mill, scraps recycling (recycling of nylon, plastic, aluminium, iron, lead, copper etc.). The production equipment and technologies in these villages are often old and obsolete. Production facilities are installed in households or being scattered within villages. This causes adverse impacts on the health of local people. The air and water pollution in some artisan villages has reached alarming levels.
The existing conditions of environmental sanitation in rural areas of Vietnam is very poor, especially in the poor rural areas. Except for some communes surrounding big cities accessing piped clean water supply, most of the rural areas in Vietnam have to use water from dug wells, waterways or rainwater without sanitary treatment. It is estimated that only 30-40% of rural population have access to safe potable water. Consequently, in some rural areas, this situation has led to the spread of several diseases such as parasitic worms, malaria, haemorhage and Japanese encephalitis.
3.4. Marine environment
Marine and coastal ecosystems in Vietnam are very abundant and represent all the features of a tropical sea, with significant economic and environmental values. In recent years because of rapid urbanisation, modernisation and a rapid increase in navigation in coastal areas, there has been a corresponding increase in the quantity and categories of pollutants in the marine environment, thus, degrading marine resources, particularly in the coastal areas of North and South Vietnam. The concentration of pollutants is increasingly being detected in the sea. Many coral reefs have died and bleached in Bach Long Vi, Cat Ba and some other islands in Quang Ninh province, as well as in the central and southern region of the country. There has also been a perceptible decline in the fishery yields in coastal areas.
3.5. Environmental impacts of mineral products exploitation
At present there are over 1,000 mines operating to exploit over 50 different kinds of mineral products. These have caused considerable damage to the land environment, destroyed forests and polluted the water and air environments. The coal exploitation in Quang Ninh has left more than 100 million tons of waste soil and stone, in addition to destroying hundreds of km2 of forests. It has not been possible to rehabilitate this forest, causing erosion, sedimentation and pollution of rivers, streams and sea water in Ha Long Bay. Monitoring data of the sea environment in offshore oil exploitation area shows that oil and heavy metal concentration has considerably increased.
3.6. Energy development and environment
The major sources of electric energy in Vietnam are thermal and hydraulic power. In 1998, the total electricity output of Vietnam was estimated at about of 30.266 billion kWh, comprising 12.2 billions kWh (40%) and 18.066 billions kWh (60%) of hydroelectricity and thermoelectricity respectively. The thermal power plants in the north use mainly coal, those in the south use furnace oil and/or natural gas.
The thermal power plants often use Quang Ninh coal with average ash content (A) of 10-15% and sulphur content (S) of 0.5%. The power plants based on furnace oil often use oil with ash content of 0.01- 0.50% and sulphur content of 2.7- 3.0%. Therefore, the power plants emit much SO2 and dust into the atmosphere, causing air pollution. However, the pollution only occurs in local areas. So far, the thermal power plants in Vietnam only use dust filters but no SO2 treatment equipment.
3.7. Transport development and Environment
In recent years, the transportation systems including roads, railways, waterway (including sea routes and river routes) and airways have developed very rapidly. The total number of transportation vehicles has also increased very rapidly, in particular motorcycles and automobiles. The total volume of fuel for transportation increased from only half a million ton in 1990, to about 1.2-1.4 million tons at present. Automobiles and motorbikes still use leaded petrol of two kinds: Mogas 92 with lead (Pb) content of 0.15 g/l and Mogas 83 with lead content of 0.40 g/l.
According to environmental monitoring data from 1997-1998, dust concentration in air next to large roads is 2 to 6 times higher than the acceptable limit (0.2 mg/m3). The lead (Pb) content in major cross-roads of large cities has nearly touched the permissible limit (0.005 mg/m3), whereas the contents of SO2, NO2, CO are lower than the acceptable limits. Traffic bottlenecks are on the increase in large cities. The waterways transportation causes water pollution, particularly in harbours, estuaries and coastal areas. Oil content in harbours is close to the acceptable limit. Noise level exceeds 70 dBA next to large roads, and reaches to 83-85 dBA in some major traffic routes in Ha Noi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh cities.
3.8. Tourism development and environment
The tourism potential of Vietnam is very promising. In recent years, Vietnam has developed the tourist industry systematically. By 1990, there were only about 250,000 foreign tourist arrivals in Vietnam, which increased to 1 million in 1994 and 1,716,000 by the end of October 1997 .
The number of domestic tourists, which was only 2.7 millions in 1993 increased to 9 million in 1999, and is forecasted to reach 25 millions tourists (domestic and foreign tourists) by 2010.
* Tourist potential
Tourism sector has contributed positively to the economic development of Vietnam, but concurrently it has also caused adverse impacts on natural resources and the environment.
- Construction of hotels and other tourism-serving infrastructure has been changing natural landscapes, damaging historic relics and encroaching on historic-cultural heritages.
- Increased generation of waste, particularly liquid and solid waste, adds to the pollution load in the environment.
- Endemic ecosystems, tropical primitive forests, sea islands, caves, coral reefs, etc. are attractive for tourists, but they are also sensitive and vulnerable to the damages caused by tourist activities.
3.9. Environmental disasters
Natural disasters: Between 1994 and 1999 there were many natural disasters such as: drought, typhoons, floods, landslides, etc. For example, two major typhoons occurred in 1997 and 1999 in the central and southern part of the country respectively. The 1997 typhoon claimed about 3,000 lives, sank 3,000 boats, destroyed more than 100,000 houses and total damage was estimated at around 7,800 billion VND. The typhoon on November 14th 1999 in the central provinces from Quang Binh to Phu Yen caused tremendous damages to human life and property: 591 dead, 30 missing, 275 wounded, 41,080 houses collapsed and carried away, 570 classrooms destroyed, and aggregate economic damage reached 3,768.5 billion VND (269 millions USD). Another typhoon in the central provinces from Thua Thien- Hue to Khanh Hoa on December 10th 1999 caused 120 dead, 4 missing, 203 wounded, 7,121 houses collapsed and carried away, and aggregate economic damage reached 925.5 billion VND (66.1 millions USD).
Artificial disasters: Since 1994 there have been many man-made disasters such as: forest fires, oil spills, toxic chemical leaks, food poisoning etc. Between 1994 and 1999, there were 35 cases of oil spills occurring in coastal areas in Vietnam with 1,600 tons of oil overflowing into the sea . An explosion in pit No25 of Mao Khe coal mine on January 11th 1999 caused by leaking methane gas (CH4) resulted in the death of 19 persons and wounding of 12 others.