In the ranking of the most polluted cities in the world, Vietnam has two representatives: Ho Chi Minh City (ranked 10th) and Hanoi (ranked 17th), whose pollution indexes are all above 90. The pollution in urban areas in Vietnam is likely to worsen and worsen as population is on the rise. Specifically, while in 2000, Vietnam’s urban population was 15 million, it soared to 34 million in 2018 and is estimated to reach 50 million in 2035.
Only 40-60% of the waste goes to landfill, and very small amount of which can be recycled. The remaining amount of waste is discharged directly into the environment by the people. Many manufacturing enterprises also discharge their waste directly into rivers, lakes and the sea, causing serious consequences. Environmental incidents caused by Vedan and Formosa factories are the most obvious evidence for this.
Experts estimate that the damage from poor environmental protection and waste treatment in Vietnam, excluding the long-term harmful effects of environmental pollution, could account for 6 - 8% of GDP. Recently, climate change impacts are becoming more serious and unpredictable than before. WB said that Vietnam is the 9th most affected country by climate change in the world.
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Like many other developing countries, over the past 25 years, Vietnam has experienced a very high GDP growth rate, but it depends too much on the use of natural resources. Specifically, from 1990 to 2014, the estimated value of natural capital, including agricultural resources and minerals, was 32%, which is three times higher than the average of Southeast Asian countries.
WB said that there is nothing wrong with Vietnam taking advantage of its natural advantages to stimulate economic development. However, the current development model of using too much natural capital is increasingly proving unsustainable and no longer suitable for the current period. The above growth model is called width-based growth, resulting in the depletion of natural resources.
For example, Vietnam used to have abundant coal minerals in the past, and its mining output was sufficient to meet domestic and export demands. However, since 2016, more coal has been imported to serve the production needs.
Mr. Jacques Morisset, Chief Economist of the World Bank in Vietnam believed that Vietnam needs a more comprehensive and effective model to be able to maintain the efficiency of the economy when its natural resources are going to exhaust. The model should promote the role of human capital and production capital to offset the reduction in natural resource use.
According to the report Dynamic Vietnam: Creating a foundation for a high-income economy by the World Bank, there are many ways to become a green economy, but all require the change coming from the mindset and awareness of each individual and business to the local government at all levels.
The World Bank proposed three solutions based on three major issues:
Firstly, it is necessary to improve price policies, to have price support tools to promote green consumption or to apply tariffs for the cost of providing services and products associated with environmental impacts such as carbon emissions tax, waste prices, etc. These policies can cause long-term political and social difficulties, so they need to be applied gradually so that people can adapt and keep up with changes.
The second solution is about investment policies and regulations. Accordingly, Vietnam needs to incorporate environmental-related regulations into investment laws to associate investors with environmental protection responsibilities. Harmful products might be restricted, even banned from investment if necessary. Although perhaps everyone understands the harmful effects of pollution and the urgency of environmental protection, moving from thinking to action takes more than that.
Therefore, the government should issue more incentive programs or financial support to accelerate economic transformation. Investment policies must have coordination among sectors, balancing the development needs of industries and regions. In addition to investing in the environment, projects that enhance regional resilience to climate change should be encouraged.
Finally, building an information system is essential and can be implemented immediately. WB experts suggested that Vietnam build an economic and environmental information system, with the contribution of ministries and agencies. This system will play the role of providing data to design policies, making plans for efficient use of resources as well as assessing the results of issued economic and environmental policies. To ensure efficiency, the data system should be built in a transparent and open manner, with the close support of both state agencies and businesses, and it needs constant and accurate updates.
Environmental education must also be promoted to provide knowledge, encourage good habits and change shopping and consumption behaviors without harming the environment. This is the core basis for limiting indiscriminate littering, plastic abuse, fossil fuel abuse or waste of resources and energy.
The report acknowledges the efforts of the Vietnamese government in actively and creatively promoting environmental protection for sustainable development, such as the development of a legal framework for resource and mineral management, or the issuance of green bonds.
Source: World Bank