Framework of EHS laws and regulations in Vietnam.
- Overview, environmental standards (This page)
- Waste management
- Energy Conservation
- Water management
- Management of noise, vibration, and odor
- Soil pollution control
- Air pollution control
- Occupational Safety and Health
Overview of environmental issues in Vietnam
Like other Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam is facing diverse environmental issues due to its rapid economic growth and industrialization. The “Resolution No. 35/NQ-CP on a number of urgent issues in environmental protection”, which was promulgated in 2013, has identified seven issues as the country’s challenges as listed below. As seen in items 1 and 4 of the list, water pollution has been recognized as a major problem in Vietnam. Air pollution has also become a concern in large cities due to the sharp increase of automobiles and motorcycles. Awareness about soil pollution has also raised in recent years. As mentioned later, the country’s “Law on Environmental Protection of 2014” also refers to soil pollution control.
- Inspecting the status of compliance with environmental laws in industrial parks and zones more strictly; and promoting strategic environmental assessment and EIA (environmental impact assessment) activities for development projects. In any factory construction project in industrial a park or zone, the factory must be constructed only after having constructed a centralized wastewater treatment plant pursuant to applicable laws and regulations and ensuring that wastewater will be treated in a way that meets the current environmental standards.
- Giving more importance to environmental protection in mining activities
- Concentrating efforts on pollution prevention and environmental rehabilitation in rural areas and craft villages
- Developing measures to prevent environmental pollution in river zones and large cities.
- Strictly controlling the import of scraps
- Effectively preventing ecosystem and biodiversity degradation and species reduction
- Improving the effect and effectiveness of the country’s environmental protection operation
Waste management is also of a major interest in the country. The “Prime Minister’s Decision No. 2149/QD-TTg on approving the national strategy for integrated management of solid waste up to 2025, with a Vision to 2050” has set numerical targets not only for management of municipal wastes but also for that of industrial wastes. Additionally, regulations on collection of e-wastes were promulgated in August 2013. Companies all over the world are concerned about its enforcement because it introduced the scheme of extended produce responsivities (EPR) in Vietnam.
In the field of energy conservation, a system of laws and regulations was developed in 2010, stipulating detailed rules on energy-saving labels for products and energy efficiency management in facilities, such as factories and shopping complex. In particular, consumer awareness on products with energy-saving labels is increasing, and a survey conducted at consumer electronics retailers in large cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City has revealed that the sales of products with energy-saving labels have increased by about 10-15% .
Regarding management of chemicals, after the promulgation of the “Law on Chemicals” in 2007, implementing regulations for the Law were set successively, developing a scheme for proper chemical management.
Legal system in Vietnam
In Vietnam, in addition to the National Assembly, state bodies, central ministries and other governmental agencies have the right to enact legal documents. There are many types of legal documents in Vietnam but the legal system in the field of environment can be summarized as below.
General legal system in Vietnam
- Constitution (Hiến pháp)
Constitution is the legal basis of the country and has the highest legal effect. All legal normative documents must conform to the Constitution (Article 119 of the constitution). The constitution may be amended only by the National Assembly (Article 120 of the Constitution).
- Law (Luật)
Laws are established by the National Assembly. The State President, the Standing Committee of the National Assembly, the Ethnic Council, Committees of the National Assembly, the state government, the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuracy, the State Audit, the Vietnam Fatherland Front and its member organizations, and the members of the National Assembly have the right to submit draft laws (Article 84 of the Constitution).
- Decree (Nghị định)
Decrees are established by the state government to stipulate implementing rules for laws, resolutions of the National Assembly, regulations, resolutions of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly, and decrees and decisions of the State President.
- Circular (Thông tư)
Circulars are issued by state ministers or state agencies deemed to be equivalent to state ministries, within the scope of their authority, to give guidelines for implementing laws, resolutions of the National Assembly, regulations, resolutions of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly, decrees and decisions of the State President, resolutions and decrees of state government and decision and directions of the Prime Minister.
In Vietnam, the right to enact constitution and a law (Luat) are given only to the National Assembly while the aforementioned ministries/agencies have the right to establish legal normative documents including ordinances (Lenh), resolutions (Nghi Quyet), decrees (Nghi Dinhe), decisions (Quyet Dinh), directions (Chi Thi), and circulars (Thong Tu). The hierarchical relationships among these legal documents are determined pursuant to the relationships between the ministries/agencies that issued the documents or as stated in premises of such legal documents.
Vietnamese National Standard (TCVN) and National Technical Regulation (QCVN)
Environmental standards in Vietnam can be roughly classified into two types: Vietnamese National Standard (TCVN) and National Technical Regulation (QCVN). TCVN and QCVN are issued pursuant to the Law on Standards and Technical Regulations (68/2006/QH11), which was established in June 2006. The features of each are summarized as follows.
- Vietnamese National standard (TCVN)
TCVNs are standards that set technical specifications or requirements for management of products, services, processes, environment, and other socio-economic activities. They are voluntary standards (Article 3, Paragraph 1 of the Law on Standards and Technical Regulations). In addition to TCVNs, the country has TCCSs, which are voluntary national standards for the manufacturing industry (Article 10 of the same Law).
- National Technical regulation (QCVN)
QCVNs are standards that set permissible limits related to technology or management for products, services, processes, environment, and other socio-economic activities. These standards are mandatory. QCVNs have the aim to protect safety, sanitation, health, and the environment (Article 3, Paragraph 2 of the same Law). In Vietnam, in addition to QCVNs, which are national mandatory technical standards, there are also regional technical mandatory standards QCDP (Article 26 of the same Law).
Previously the country had set environmental standards and emission standards as TCVNs (voluntary standards). But in recent years they have been set as QCVNs (mandatory regulations). This means emission standards have become legally binding.
Law on Environmental Protection (55/2014/QH13)
The Law on Environmental Protection defines the basic principles and direction for overall environmental management in Vietnam as a basic environmental law of the country.
Vietnam enacted its first environmental law relatively recently, in 1993. Prior to that, in 1991, the National Plan for Environment and Sustainable Development 1991-2010, the country’s first policy that aimed to achieve both economic development and environmental protection, was set. Then, in 1993, the proposed Law on Environmental Protection was approved by the National Assembly as a law to comprehensively deal with environmental issues. The Law then came into effect on January 10, 1994. Subsequently, in 1995, environmental standards and emission standards for air, water, soil, etc. were established. Multiple implementing rules for EIA were also issued from 1994 to 1995. Besides, before and after the promulgation of the Law on Environmental Protection of 1993, the state government promulgated various environmental laws successively (e.g., Law on Forest Protection and Development of 1991, Law of Land Use of 1993, Law on Water Resources of 1998, etc.).
Then the Law on Environmental Protection was fully revised in 2005 (52/2005/QH12). The former version of the Law (1993) had 55 articles while the revised one (2005) had 136 articles, which are almost doubled. The major revisions include the clarification of each provision and the establishment of a separate chapter on waste management.
Then, on June 23, 2014, the current version, the Law on Environmental Protection of 2014 (55/2014/QH13) was promulgated. The Law consists of 170 articles in 20 chapters and came into effect on January 1, 2015.
 Currently the Law on Environmental Protection of 2014 is under review for full revision (as of December 2019). A draft of the law that was published on December 13, 2019 consists of 176 articles in 17 chapters and 4 annexes, stipulating newly introduced management systems (e.g. waste audit scheme for factories). The draft has a large impact on business activities and is worth paying attentions to.