Vietnam Agricultural Science Institute
Assessing Participatory Rural Environmental Management: In the Craft Villages
Nguyen Khac Quynh et al
Table of contents
ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS
PART I. INTRODUCTION
1.1. THE IMPORTANCE OF ASSESSING RURAL ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT
PART II. CONTENT AND METHODOLOGIES
PART III. OVERVIEW CRAFT VILLAGES AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION
3.1. THE HISTORY OF CRAFT VILLAGES:
PART IV. RESEARCH RESULTS IN CAT QUE COMMUNE
4.1. NATURAL CONDITIONS, BUSINESS AND PRODUCTION SITUATIONS IN CAT QUE COMMUNE
PART V. CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS
PART VI. APPENDIX
APPENDIX 1. INVESTIGATED HOUSEHOLD RESULT
PART VII. REFERENCES
In northern Viet Nam, rapid industrial, population and urban growth have put increasing pressure on land and water resources in rural agricultural areas. Overuse and misuse of these resources cause widespread environmental degradation, poor human health and living conditions, and decreased incomes from farming and craft production.
Craft development is closely linked with rural development in Viet Nam, as it creates jobs for villagers thereby raising living standards. Rapid growth has been reported in such rural industries as mechanical repairs, pottery, carpeting, brick and tiles, food processing, wine, and in the casting of aluminum, zinc and lead.
The most urgent challenge is to reduce the widespread environmental pollution which is affecting the health of rural communities and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Villages located next to craft villages are also affected.
It was against this background that a trained team of Vietnam Agriculture Science Institute (VASI) researchers conducted an in-depth assessment on Participatory Rural Environmental Management in selected craft villages of Ha Tay Province. The villages were chosen in consultation with local authorities and villages where pollution was an urgent matter. The teams assessed the awareness and level of concern of rural communities about environmental management, with a special focus on environmental pollution. The nature and extent of collaboration among rural stakeholders to manage environmental problems were also assessed. SWOT analyses were conducted on the current situation and action plans and recommendations were prepared by the participants.
Using participatory approaches, the VASI team found that the craft industry has a long tradition in rural Viet Nam. Common traditional industries include paper production, silk, hand-made pottery and painting, among others. During the social communist government regime these industries lapsed only to be restored when the free market economy emerged. Since then, rapid growth has resulted in Ha Tay becoming the province with the most craft villages in Viet Nam with approximately 120 craft villages employing 113,956 workers (1998) and generating annual revenues of about 1045 billion VND (US$70 million).
The pollution generated by these industries takes a variety of forms and affects the soil, air, and water. Wine making and food processing, for instance, pollute surface water and air quality. Electroplating activities release 40-50 cubic meters of untreated toxic chemical waste water daily, directly into water courses. Pottery, mechanics and carpeting operations seriously pollute the air, often up to 5 to 10 times above the allowable standard. Brick and tile works and metal casting and polishing produce ambient lead levels that exceed national standards by 87 times. These and other serious pollution problems were revealed through the participatory assessment and the team recommends that the results should be acknowledged and addressed by appropriate authorities.
Vast amounts of waste water and organic material are produced in food processing. Cat Que commune, for example, produces 16,000 tons of organic waste annually. The majority of waste and waste water is untreated. In the commune, all water bodies and wells are believed to be heavily polluted and groundwater is suspect. The study suggests that other components of the living environment are seriously polluted.
Currently, there appears to be no effective effort to control pollution and improve and protect the environment. Existing policies to reduce pollution have not been institutionalized in the villages studied.
It is unclear which government agency (at any level) actually bears the responsibility for controlling pollution from waste, garbage, and water that is generated by animal husbandry, food processing, and other small scale agro-industries. Even the Ninh Con factory has no environmental protection and pollution reducing activities. While the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) is mandated to assume this role at the provincial level, the question of how to manage the environment remains unanswered, particularly on the level of the district and commune where no equivalent entity exists. Until offices are established at the district and commune levels with specific mandates and objectives to ensure sustainable environmental management, satisfactory solutions are unlikely.
Although rural villages bear a direct responsibility for creating and managing pollution, the environmental management tasks go beyond the commune scale and exceed the capacity of the commune. Inevitably there is conflict and discord between people creating pollution and those who are suffering ill health as a result of its impacts. For now, the Head of Village and the Elders Association work with Youth Unions to organize sanitation works on a regular basis. However the scale is small and the results are increasingly limited as pollution levels increase. In some cases the task is too great for the district as well, in which case the provincial level should assume responsibility for remedial action.
A SWOT analysis gave an informative overview of successes and failures related to this subject. One success was the establishment of a biogas plant, covering some 24 square meters, that harvests waste from 100 pigs and provides fuel for boiling water, lighting and cooking to maintain an even larger number of pigs, as well as an odorless waste which is used to irrigate crops.
VASI, with rural communities, developed an action plan that ranked the most important issues and possible solutions. It was agreed that in the first instance, environmental management should be undertaken by the villagers themselves. Although only minimal reliance on district or provincial authorities is envisaged, there is an opportunity for more involvement now that villagers understand their plight. Participants recognized that the action plan may be difficult to implement because of the decentralized nature of craft production in the district.
A manageable number of recommendations also emerged, including the preparation of community regulations relating to environmental protection, research into technologies to treat waste in craft villages, and the need for more funding from the national environment budget to resolve the current pollution situation.