Vietnam, HANOI — In an amendment to the Law on Water Resources that came into effect with the new year, communities in Vietnam will now in theory have more say over projects that use water in their areas.
The amendment, which was approved last June, stipulates that investors in projects that use water or discharge waste into water bodies are required to consult with communities in local areas so the environmental impacts of the projects can be assessed during the planning stage.
However, Nguyen Thuy Anh of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, expressed concerns about the vagueness of portions of the amendment.
Viet Nam News quoted her as saying more specific instructions should be issued to make the amended law work, including making procedures for the consultation process clear, so investors cannot take advantage of vague regulations or produce biased consultation reports.
She added that there should also be provisions on the levels of fines for investors who fail to consult with local communities or submit inaccurate consultation reports.
One recommendation calls for a mechanism enabling communities to work closely with independent experts and consultants in the presentation of their cases.
Water Resources Management Department Deputy Director Le Huu Thuan said having community participation right from the start of a project would result in a higher degree of responsibility and transparency from project investors.
A number of new water resources laws took effect in Vietnam starting January 1. The laws stipulate measures to prevent pollution, degradation, and water depletion, as well as responses to and ways to overcome water pollution.
Under the new laws, all water exploitation activities now have to comply with water resource planning programs. Construction of new hospitals, medical establishments, cemeteries and waste-burial sites in the water resource protection corridor will now be banned.
The new laws also include strict penalties for those found guilty of polluting water by illegally discharging waste. Firms will be shut down if they are found to be causing pollution by illegally discharging waste.
Violators would not only have to pay for the damage but also repair problems and losses caused by water pollution.
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