Vietnam has developed industrial zones spread out across the country, from north to south, where most of the country’s exported goods are manufactured and processed. As of December 2018, there are already more than 320 industrial zones set up, with 249 already in operation.
The industrial zones bring in foreign direct investments, considering that most companies and projects are foreign-owned. By the end of 2018, the industrial and economic zones saw 8000 foreign projects pouring a total capital of over $145 billion.
Most importantly, these economic zones have created jobs for the Vietnamese people. Approximately 11.3 million people are employed in the manufacturing industry, the second-highest to agriculture, forestry, and fisheries.
But while this sector makes up a huge part of Vietnam’s total GDP and continues to attract a steady flow of FDIs, the industrial economic zones also contribute significantly to the country’s environmental issues.
Vietnam has the world’s fourth-highest rate of plastic waste, at 1.83 billion tons per year, while water pollution is expected to cost the country 3.5% of its GDP by 2035, according to the World Bank. And as one of the countries considered the most vulnerable to climate change, Vietnam is forecast to suffer great economic loss.
A United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) report in Vietnam stated that “approximately 70% of effluents from industrial zones were directly discharged without prior treatment causing severe pollution of surface and groundwater, as well to the marine ecosystems.” Untreated solid waste with a high proportion of hazardous materials is also on the rise.
The UNIDO said there is existing basic environmental legislation, “but regulation and enforcement capacity were weak.”
Industrial Environmental Index
The Ministry of Planning last week announced its plan to implement an industrial environmental index to promote sustainable industrial development.
Le Thanh Quan, head of the ministry’s department of economic zone management, told local media that the ministry is gathering data and feedback in preparation for the domestic industrial environmental standards.
Quan said the establishment of environmental standards in more than 400 industrial parks and 18 economic zones would significantly resolve environmental issues, reduce waste, and achieve sustainable development.
The ministry highlighted how developed countries like Japan, South Korea, and Switzerland have successfully established eco-industrial parks and kept their production lines sustainable.
“The ministry encourages industrial parks to start preparing to transition to environmentally friendly industrial production in the near future,” Quan said.
The index is part of Vietnam’s development strategy for green growth for the 2021-2030 period. The country has pledged to reduce solid waste and reach net zero emissions by 2050 at the COP26. The index will be modeled based on existing international frameworks for building and operating industrial parks but will also consider the country’s environmental standards and capabilities.
UNIDO, who’s working with the ministry on establishing the index, said that science and technology should be at the core of the green transition.