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Should Vietnam lower environmental standards to foster industry?

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Reports all show that environmental quality has been declining, especially in industrial zone areas.

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Nguyen Dang Anh Thi, who spent many years working as an environmental consultant and policy researcher, said that Vietnam’s approach in creating environmental policies remains problematic. In many cases, Vietnamese have exchanged environmental quality for economic development. In other cases, environmental quality has been sacrificed because of special interest groups.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has said that Vietnam will not exchange its environment for economic development. However, management agencies and investors have lowered requirements on environmental quality in exchange for investment projects.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) still wants to add more coal-fired thermopower projects to the national program on power development. Many people argue that other countries such as China and India are still developing coal-fired power plants.

Vietnam had 28 coal-fired power plants by the end of 2018 with total capacity of 18,000 MW and seven other plants under construction with total capacity of 7,860 MW.

It is expected that by 2030 Vietnam will have more than 70 coal-fired power plants with total capacity of 55,300 MW. This means that the capacity would double in the next 10 years.

What are the standards for emissions from coal-fired power plants?

In the last 10 years, the 2009/BTMT national standard has set the maximum concentration levels for typical pollutants: 500 mg/c3 for SO2, 1,000 mg/m3 for NOx and 200 mg/c3 for dust.

Meanwhile, other countries which are running coal-fired power plants such as China and India have raised their standards. 

Newly built coal-fired plants in China must have SO2, NOx and dust emissions of no more than 35 mg/c3, 50 mg/c3 and 10 mg/c3, respectively. In India, the figures are 100 mg/c3, 100 mg/c3 and 30 mg/c3, respectively.

As Thi pointed out, the SO2 concentration allowed in coal-fired power plants’ emissions is 14 times higher than China, and five times higher than in India.

China has eliminated 110,000 MW of coal-fired power capacity and plans to eliminate another 20,000 MW by 2020. In 2017 alone, China stopped construction of coal fired plants with total 300,000 MW in capacity.

Thermopower causes pollution, but it remains a solution to the rapidly rising indeed for power.

The Electricity of Vietnam (EVN), the biggest electricity producer in Vietnam, has warned that Vietnam may lack 4 billion kwh of electricity from hydraulic power in 2019. This will have to be offset by coal-fired thermal power.

 

 

Source: VietNamNet

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