Vietnam's environment minister on Nov. 11 proposed raising penalties for industrial polluters and admitted that current fines are too low to act as effective deterrents.
Pham Khoi Nguyen was answering questions in the national assembly following a series of pollution scandals in which companies from Taiwan and other countries have been caught pumping toxic waste into rivers. Nguyen, the minister for natural resources and the environment, admitted that the problem was widespread and that after more than a decade of rapid industrialization "Vietnam's environment now is seriously polluted."
"At present, Vietnam has 110 industrial zones in operation," the minister said, adding that less than one third of them had adequate treatment systems for wastewater and other toxic effluents.
The government was aware of at least 4,000 factories and other entities now polluting rivers and the air, he said, but added that his ministry lacked the resources and staff to effectively crack down on them.
Nguyen said environmental inspectors have to inform factories of site visits in advance, and that polluting factories now face maximum fines of just 70 million dong (US$4,100) per breach of regulations.
"Many factories accept paying the fine in order to operate," he said. "The level of the fine is not high enough to be a threat. We have proposed raising the maximum fine to 500 million dong ($29,800)."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008