In recent years, especially since 2010, soil/land pollution has got increased attention in Vietnam. In particular, pollution is serious in agricultural land and industrial sites. However, soil rehabilitation has not been performed for such seriously polluted land. Current major pollution sources can be summarized as below:
- Pollution due to agricultural activities and daily life of farmers:
Currently contamination by pesticides is progressing on farmland. Soil contamination due to leakage from pesticide storage has also become a serious problem. In craft villages, heavy metal pollution due to metal processing and recycling processes is also emerging.
- Pollution due to industrial activities and life in urban cities:
In urban areas and industrial parks, pollution by chemicals used in factories has become a problem. In addition, soil and groundwater pollution due to waste disposal sites and illegal dumping of hazardous wastes occurs in these areas.
- Pollution due to mining activities:
In areas surrounding mines, heavy metal pollution caused by mining activities is also serious (copper, lead, zinc, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, etc.).
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) of Vietnam, land of every city in the country is now seriously polluted by waste generated from industrial projects, construction projects, household activities as well as dioxins, which are highly persistent pollutants. The land with accumulated highly persistent toxic chemicals is roughly classified into two groups: one is dioxin-contaminated land due to the effects of war (i.e. areas where toxic chemicals were sprayed, or past military installations); and the other is warehouses for plant protectants (pesticides). According to statistical data, in Vietnam, there are 240 sections of land across 15 districts across the country where pollution by plant protectants has reached “serious” or “especially serious” level. In these severely contaminated areas, the levels of persistent pollutant significantly exceed the Vietnamese standards. For example, the levels of Lindane, DDT, Aldrin, and DDD are 37.4 to 3458 times, 1.3 to 9057.8 times, 218.9 times, and 98.4 times those of permissible limits set in the relevant regulations, respectively. The National Environmental Report 2016 published by MONRE has expressed the land with accumulated highly persistent hazardous chemicals as “land contaminated with pollutants that remain in the environment for very long periods of time, and are highly harmful and difficult to decompose, treat, or improve.”
In Vietnam, there are several cities/sites contaminated with dioxins, which are highly persistent, and a typical example is the Bien Hoa Airport. The contaminated area extends from north to southwest of the Airport, with 163,000 m2 of land. The level of dioxin in the land exceeds 1000 ppt. The Da Nang Airport is another example. It has three sites where the dioxin levels exceed 1000 ppt, which are located in the north of the airport with a total area of 88,000 m2. Since these areas are close to residential area, thorough rehabilitation of the soil is required.
In Vietnam, these factors are major causes of land pollution. They further cause cancers and other health hazards to neighboring residents. However, the country does not have sufficient technology or experts to analyze these pollutions. Even the state authorities do not have sufficient information on the actual situation of the pollution. Some developed countries have already implemented measures against land contamination, such as setting up a fund to rehabilitate contaminated soil. However, Vietnam has yet to set up such a rehabilitation scheme. So establishment of such a scheme and/or legislation should be a current issue of the country. On the other hand, in recent years, the awareness of soil contamination has gradually increased among Vietnamese people. Accordingly, a growing number of farmers are starting to use microbial fertilizers made from agricultural wastes, instead of chemical fertilizers or pesticides to avoid soil pollution. The farmers are calling on the government to introduce regulations that limit the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Overview of regulations on soil
The Law on Environmental Protection (No. 55/2014/QH13), which was renewed in 2014, has provisions on soil contamination that did not exist in the previous 2005 version of the Law. This Law prohibits to discharge wastes that do not meet the relevant environmental standards or hazardous substances on land (Article 7 of the Law on Environmental Protection). In addition, Chapter 6, Section 3 (Articles 59 to 61) of the Law gives provisions on the environment protection for land. Under this Section, organization, family household and individual who is vested with the land ownership is obliged to perform the land environmental protection. In addition, the organization, family household and individual who pollutes the land environment shall be liable to carry out the treatment, renovation and remediation of land environment (Article 59). Manufacturing or business establishments shall be responsible for applying measures to control the environmental pollution thereat. (Article 61). Given these provisions, it is expected that in Vietnam more comprehensive and stringent measures against soil pollution will be taken in the future.
Law on Environmental Protection (No. 55/2014/QH13)
- Decree on detailing a number of articles of the Law on Environmental Protection (No. 19/2015/ND-CP)
- National technical regulation on the allowable limits of heavy metals in the soils (QCVN 03-MT:2015/BTNMT)
- National technique regulation on allowed limits of dioxin in soils (QCVN 45:2012/BTNMT)
- National technical regulation on the pesticide residues in the soils (QCVN 15:2008/BTNMT)