Vietnam must protect the environment or face enormous bills to clean up the damage, deputies warned in the National Assembly on Wednesday.
The poor logic of focusing on development at the cost of the environment had already been shown by other developing countries, they said.
The deputies, who were discussing proposed changes to the Environment Protection Law, said amendments to the regulations and policies governing environmental protection were particularly needed.
So too was the need to set, assess and apply an environmental standard throughout the country.
The deputies, who wanted harsher penalties for those who damage the environment, emphasised the pollution caused by industrial and agricultural production including villages following traditional occupations.
They said that Vietnam produced more than 15mil tonnes of solid waste, including hazardous industrial waste, each year.
More than 80 of the total waste, about 12.8mil tonnes, came from municipal sources, including households, restaurants, markets and businesses.
The latest Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry figures showed that Vietnam had about 1,450 traditional occupational villages, including 800 in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta.
Waste from these, together with the waste generated by a livestock herd of 36mil and 200mil fowls, had severely polluted both the air and the water.
The overuse of chemical fertiliser in agriculture both lowered the quality of agricultural produce and harmed human health.
The deputies also assessed the ministry’s 2006-2010 action plan to protect the environment and ensure the sustainable and effective use of such natural resources as land, water and forests.
They agreed that plans to deal with natural disasters such as flash floods, landslides, sea encroachment and drought were needed.
They also wanted national strategies for environmental protection effectively implemented so as to reduce losses to the environment caused by inappropriate agricultural production.
Deputy Dang Ngoc Tung, HCM City, proposed that the committee writing the draft law add provisions to deal with transport carrying goods and waste that caused pollution.
Deputy Nguyen Van Phan, northern Ninh Binh Province, proposed that the new law include the protection of the sea through regulations for the collection and treating of the waste from aqua-produce.
Outside the assembly, vote Dam Xuan Luy said the draft committee should emphasise socialising environmental protection.
Environmental protection required co-ordination between administrators, industries and municipalities, he said.
In addition, people, communities, offices, enterprises and companies had to be made aware of environmental protection.
Bui Tam Trung of the Hanoi Association for Natural and Environmental Protection said the draft law should embody campaigns to make people more aware of the need to protect and respect the environment in thought and action.
The assembly is expected to pass the Environmental Protection Law of 15 chapters and 136 articles late next month.
Plant patents mulled
Debate at yesterday’s session of the National Assembly focused on amendments to the draft Law on Intellectual Property, and particularly on how it pertained to Patents on Agricultural products.
Delegates at the committee also reached a consensus on the need to distinguish between the region of origin of particular strains of agricultural products, and geographical indications. They agreed this differentiation needed to be clarified on packaging.
An Giang Province representative Nguyen Ngoc Tran suggested that proposed amendments in the draft law might not be enough to clarify such confusion.
Tran said enforcement of patent protection for seed varieties would severely restrict farmers wanting to grow different varieties of crops. He cited Mexico as an example of how big companies can gain a stranglehold on agricultural production as a result of holding and enforcing bio-patents.
Quang Nam Province delegate Tuyen Hoang said existing regulations on agricultural patents were difficult to understand, and amendments were needed to clarify the situation.
He said research institutes in foreign countries often develop new varieties of crops which are then patented by companies claiming ownership of the organism. These companies in turn benefit from licensing the product.
In Vietnam however, research institutes are funded by the State to produce State-owned strains, which are freely available for farmers to use.
In keeping with this practice, Hoang said subsequent regulations on bio-patents should stress the needs of farmers rather than protect the special interests of seed suppliers. Farmers should not be forced to pay for the right to grow crops on top of the price for seeds, he said.
Addressing the broader issue of intellectual property, delegates agreed on the necessity to balance the interests of consumers with those of intellectual property right-holders.
Director of the National Assembly’s Science, Technology and Environment Committee, Ho Duc Viet, said the draft law would protect the rights of owners of intellectual property and give them recourse to defend its integrity.
The overall protection mechanism is aimed at fostering innovation by protecting intellectual property, which would spur socio-economic development, he said.
Delegate Mac Kim Ton, from Thai Binh Province, said computer software should be extended the same copyright protection as new inventions.
Khanh Hoa Province representative Mai Anh said State legislation should discriminate between computer software protection and that of works of art and literature, because they differed greatly in nature.
She said protecting computer software was a complicated issue, and that countries throughout the world passed laws to safeguard patent holders. The State should tackle the issue with a special chapter, she said.
The draft Intellectual Property Law is comprised of 18 chapters and 226 clauses.
(Source: Viet Nam News)