VietNamNet Bridge – The annual illegal importing of thousands tonnes of toxic waste and raw materials to Viet Nam is causing continuous concerns to management authorities at all levels, experts have warned.



Policemen seize a truck transporting illegally imported toxic waste. Experts warn the illegal import of imported toxic waste had reached the highest level. — Photo


Representatives at a workshop held last week in the capital city to combat environmental crimes, raised an alarm that the invasion of imported toxic waste had reached the highest level.

They further said that current penalties, which had been legalised in the Criminal Code, were not clear or relevant enough to bring violators to court.

The volume of illegally-imported waste that has been confiscated, and the number of violations, are insignificant and make it more difficult to treat solid waste violations, they noted.

The government had decided to disallow the temporary imports of certain types of goods for re-export, but lax oversight meant many transport companies continued to carry goods that had been temporarily banned or restricted, including used household equipment, second hand rubber tires, and frozen chicken legs and wings, according to the experts.

They further said that regulations did not clearly distinguish between scrap used as raw materials in manufacturing and waste. Thus, many companies took advantage of this to import large quantities of toxic waste.

A series of examples had been displayed at the workshop to show how authorities had failed to handle the situation and explain how the law was still ineffective in punishing the violations.

For instance, a case of illegal importing of PCBs, or Polychlorinated Biphenyls, a very toxic chemical found both in the environment and in living tissue, is found in aquatic ecosystems and in species that primarily eat aquatic organisms.

Consignments of PCBs successful passed through Cai Lan Port at the end of 2007 after paying administrative fines to the then-southern Quang Nam People's Committee.

A second example was the import of 140 tonnes of plastic waste by the Kim Thu Binh Company in 2010. Plastic waste was listed in the forbidden waste import scheme. At that time, the company was not brought to court, as it was found only to be violating rules on storing illegally imported waste, and not causing a serious impact on society, and authorities could not prove they had imported a large volume of toxic waste.

Experts also asked why toxic wastes could be easily imported and found spreading across the country?

A representative from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's Legislative Department, who did not give his name, said high profits from the trading of imported toxic wastes encouraged illegal imports.

Meanwhile, he said, the country's Criminal Code did not yet include concrete legislation about such violations.

He added that the current 185 Clause in the code generally regulated imports of toxic wastes, but had not clarified what is an illegal import to Viet Nam, or whether it included imports from tariff - free areas.

The clause also was unclear about the treatment of seized imported toxic wastes, which was often very costly. This was why many violators tried to pay the fine, but later fled, left behind untreated wastes and causing serious environmental pollution to nearby living areas.

Experts recommended a readjustment of the Criminal Code to include more clarifications about the import of toxic wastes and raw materials, as well as their treatment in Viet Nam.

They further suggested imposing fines and strict punishments in court to those importing volumes of between 5,500 and 7,000kg of 120 and 200 cubic metres of toxic waste and material with toxic chemical substances. Special punishments should be handed down to those importing more than that volume.