Vietnam's environment under stress, says World Bank

Posted: 23 September 2002

Despite impressive economic growth and gains in poverty reduction, Vietnam's environment has suffered gravely at the expense of its economic success, says a World Bank report.

According to the report, Vietnam Environment Monitor 2002, the challenges facing the Vietnamese Government today are great. In the past 50 years, natural forest cover has shrunk from 43 to 29 per cent of land area, and the country is facing an acute shortage of arable land and habitat loss has led to a rise in the number of threatened species.

In contrast, since 1992, Vietnam's economy has doubled in size, with growing foreign investment and exports rising an average of 25 per cent a year, while poverty has been halved from 70 per cent to around 35 per cent of the population. However, these economic gains have brought with them the usual environmental problems associated with rapid economic growth in developing countries.

Burgeoning urban populations are overwhelming municipal infrastructure and services, creating unmanaged landfills, transport-related air pollution, untreated hazardous waste, and raw sewage flowing in open channels. Sedimentation, and point and non-point sources of pollution are threatening the health of rivers. Over-fishing and destruction of coral reefs and mangroves have reduced the fishing yield.

The report stresses that rapid deterioration in the country's environment and natural resources needs to be addressed by the government if Vietnam is to achieve sustainable growth in a way that protects the environment and invests in human and social capital.

Vietnam is among the many countries in the East Asia and Pacific Region that the World Bank is assisting in the preparation of Environment Monitors. It is hoped that these reports will help governments to execute their environmental goals.