Polluting SMEs pose huge environmental threat

HA NOI — Uncontrolled waste treatment by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) has led experts to worry about growing environmental pollution.

SMEs were found violating environmental protection regulations more frequently than their large-scale counterparts, said Le Minh Duc, head of Environment and Industrial Sustainable Development Office from the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Making up more than 90 per cent of the country’s total enterprises, SMEs released a huge amount of waste into the environment, he said.

In HCM City alone, up to 7,000 tonnes of waste is released everyday, a 70 per cent increase over the 2002 average. The increase is blamed on population growth as well as the recent burst in the number of SMEs, according to the city’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

Only 10 per cent of the waste was recycled while the rest was simply buried, it said.

The leather, textiles and electronics sectors were responsible for releasing the largest amount of hazardous wastes, Duc said.

“The pollution will get worse if waste from SMEs remains unclassified and untreated,” he said.

The presence of SMEs in residential and urban areas had caused waste management difficulties, and the financial limitations of SMEs had hindered their investment in suitable treatment facilities, Duc said.

SMEs were lack of their waste treatment responsibilities in part because of the loose legal system now that the 2005 Law on Environmental Protection was outdated, said Duc.

Complicated procedures to obtain permission to discharge waste, the lack of waste treatment plants and the rising cost of business made compliance difficult, said Nguyen Thi Thu Hang of the Ngoc Te Shoes Company

An amendment to the legal framework and enforcement was essential for all enterprises, said Florian Beranek from the United Nation Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in an interview with Ha Noi Moi (New Ha Noi) newspaper at a recent workshop co-organised by the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and UNIDO in Ha Noi and HCM City.

Enhancement of SMEs capacity to classify and treat waste and raising their awareness of the need for environmental protection was also important, he said.

Relocating SMEs to industrial sites should also be considered as a solution to reducing pollution, said Pham Quang Vinh of VCCI.

The manufacture of eco-friendly products would be a competitive advantage for enterprises in the future, Vinh said.

Experts also agreed that recycling would be ideal for SMEs because it could help reduce costs as well as protect the environment.

A study by the HCM City National University’s Institute of Environment and Natural Resources revealed that about 70-75 per cent of waste can be recycled.

There are more than 500,000 SMEs throughout the country. — VNS


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