On September 10-11, 2015 I was lucky enough to have been invited to give a presentation on China’s Water Pollution and Prevention Control Law at the Workshop on International Experiences in Water Pollution Control in Ninh Binh, Viet Nam. The workshop was organized by the Center for Environment and Community Research (CECR), a prominent NGO based in Hanoi, as a part of their campaign to raise awareness about water pollution issues facing Viet Nam and to promote the development and adoption of a comprehensive new water pollution control law for Viet Nam. The event was well-attended by members of Viet Nam’s National Assembly, Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, and the Vietnam Environment Administration, as well as members of other relevant government agencies and Vietnamese NGO’s.
The purpose of this workshop was to share with the audience experiences from other countries with regard to their legal frameworks for water pollution control. The workshop featured four experts, including Randolph Hill, USEPA Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of International and Tribal Affairs, who gave respective presentations on the water pollution prevention laws of the US, China, Korea, and the Czech Republic.
Viet Nam currently lacks a law specifically addressing water pollution, and so gaining knowledge on the successes and challenges of water pollution prevention in other countries is critical as the country contemplates creating a new one. To be sure, Viet Nam did attempt to address water pollution in its 1993 Law on Environmental Protection (revised in 2005) and 1999 Law on Water Resources (revised in 2012). Various national and local government agencies have since issued over 300-water related regulations and guidance documents in order to implement these laws, as documented in an excellent study. However, despite these efforts, the quality of Viet Nam’s waterways has continued to deteriorate. Many of the regulations were issued and implemented by various national-level and local government agencies, creating an overly complex, redundant, and often contradictory water quality regulatory system. Additionally, compliance with what regulations do exist has remained weak in Viet Nam for a number of reasons, including insufficient penalty mechanisms, lack of capacity among both government and the private sector to implement the regulations, lack of awareness of the legal requirements among all stakeholders (which themselves are vague and unclear), and insufficient participation of the public in implementing the law.
It was fascinating and very much a privilege to be able to attend this workshop and engage in discussions with law-makers, regulators, and the NGO community on these issues. As Viet Nam continues its rapid economic development, the need for a comprehensive piece of legislation to prevent and control water pollution will only continue to grow.