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Despite Criticisms, Saigon Proposes Hiking Wastewater Discharge Levy

Saigon’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment has proposed increasing fees on wastewater discharged by the city’s production workshops, but the plan’s specifics and methods are attracting criticism.

Officials met on Thursday to discuss ways to address inadequate fees collected from factories and businesses that release wastewater, according to Vietnam News. The measures hope to incentivize investment in treatment equipment and limit total pollution output.

Currently, the city collects approximately VND8 billion (US$350,000) annually in fees from 2,790 production workshops that release a total of 143,430 cubic meters of wastewater a day. The new taxes would charge those with capacities of less than five cubic meters a day a flat rate of VND1.5 million while those with greater outputs would have fees based on total wastewater flow (K coefficient) and be proportional to the pollutant content found in the water. VietnamNet claims the changes would increase total fees collected to VND60 billion (US$2.46 million) from 3,310 production workshops.

25% of the obtained money would be used to pay for services and fee collection management, while the rest would be distributed to local budgets for environmental projects.

The new plan has numerous critics. Tong Huu Chau, a member of the HCMC Advisory Board for Science, said it doesn’t recognize a wide-enough range of pollutants and the K coefficient isn't a reasonable metric because it doesn’t take into account the different costs that production workshops put into wastewater treatment.

Tong also argued that the costs would likely be passed on to consumers and harm businesses. He cautioned that applying the fees to the medical industry, in particular, would increase health care costs across the board. More attention paid to sanctions and enforcement of environmental violations would be more effective in addressing water pollution, in his estimations.

Others contend the plan does not go far enough. Dong Van Khiem, a member of the Fatherland Front’s council for environmental science and technology said the fees should also be applied to residential areas and apartment buildings with large wastewater outputs. Others said farms, gardens, and schools with large amounts of students and swimming pools must also be included.

The debate over wastewater comes amidst increased focus on environmental protection fees for mineral exploitation and oil and petroleum products.

[Photo via VietnamNet

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