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Summary of activities in environmental servies of The Institute Of Environmental Science And Development (VESDEC) in 2020

From 2019 up to now, VESDEC has a policy of reducing the number of scientific and technological projects, only focusing on bidding for the projects/assignments with good international and national theoretical and practical values. Therefore, VESDEC has the opportunity to receive and implement various interdisciplinary environmental projects. Some of the main activities in 2020 are summarized below.
1. Conduction and Completion of the Study on "Scientific Basis for Integrating Climate Change Risk Assessment Into Environmental Impact assessment Process"

This is a core component of the Project "Private Investment for Enhanced Resilience (PIER)", supported by WINROCK /Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), implemented by the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Natural Resources and Environment (ISPONRE).
Based on review of international, national documents, Vietnamese laws and knowledge on climate change (CC) the expert of VESDEC has prepared Vietnamese and English reports with 5 chapters. The reports identified the core issues of climate change (CC): causes and risks due to climate change impacts globally and in Vietnam;the need and content of integrating climate change risk assessment into the process of environmental impact assessment (EIA); proposing processes and methods to integrate climate change assessment into the EIA process of Vietnam and proposing a list of types of projects that need to be assessed in CC in process of EIA.
The project results were evaluated through a workshop in May 2020 in Hanoi with the participation of many organizations, environmental and climate change experts.

2. Preparation of Programs, Lectures and Implement WB/DFAT’s Training of Trainers (ToT) Program for on Environmental and Social Management Plans (ESMP)

Implementing contracts with the World Bank (WB), VESDEC expert has reviewed international literatures and compiled lectures (February 2020) and participated in training (October 2020) for the ToT Program for the Institute of Natural Resources and Environment Training (InNET) of MONRE on “Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP). This ToT program was supported by WB and DFAT (Australia), intending to introduce aspects of ensuring the effective implementation of ESMP during construction of infrastructure projects, and provide tools and methods to improve the management of construction activities to ensure the compliance with environmental and social requirements of Vietnam and international donors .
30 participants, included environmental lecturers of Hanoi National University, Hanoi University of Technology, Thainguyen University, Maritime University, Vinh University and  experts of project management units, environmental officers of ministries, consultants in environmental and social monitoring, have joined the program. This is the follow-up program of the ToT on ESIA since 2015 supported by WB / PFAT. The 4-day program includes 10 modules:
Module 1: Introduction of ESMP;
Module 2: Monitoring the implementation of the World Bank's ESMP;
Module 3: ESMP implementation planning;
Module 4: Integrating environmental and social requirements into bidding documents;
Module 5: Managing the environmental and social impacts of construction activities;
Module 6: Preparing Contraction Social and Environmental Management Plan;
Module 7: Environmental and social monitoring;
Module 8: Practical implementation of environmental and social impact management;
Module 9: Environmental and social monitoring report preparation;
Module 10: Fieldwork (1 day at the water resource project in Vinhphuc province).
Participants were very enthusiastic, active in discussing, exchanging theoretical and practical issues about environmental management of projects, obtained good results and were certified by InNET and WB / DFAT (Certificate). 
Participants listening lecture 
Teamwork  exercise: participants and lecturer
Preparing to the field work in Vinhphuc province
Awarding certifcates of InNET- WB- DFAT
3. Preparation of Documents for the Leadership Fostering Programs and Fostering Programs for Professional Title Standards of Natural Resources and Environment Officers Class II and Class III About International Good Experience in Assessment and Management of Environmental and Social Impacts and Risks

These tasks were performed for InNET with the following goals:
- For Leaders of Departments of Natural Resources and Environment: to update knowledge, skills, contribute to improving practical capacity, meet the requirements of advising, managing, operating and implementing tasks related to the assessment and management of environmental and social impacts and risks of investment projects, through learning from international good experiences.
- For Natural Resources and Environment Officers class II and class III: to update knowledge and skills for implementation of tasks related to assessment and management of environmental and social impacts and risks of investment projects, through international good experience learning; contribute to improve practical capacity to meet professional title standards of natural resources and environment officers.
A total of over 10 topics have been compiled by the environmental expert in collaboration with a sociologist on the basis of referring international documents on good practices in environmental assessment and management. The main topics are:
1. The importance of assessment and management of environmental and social impacts and risks;
2. Current status of assessment and management of environmental and social impacts and risks in Vietnam and in the world;
3. Good international experience in assessment and management of environmental and social impacts and risks;
4. Overview of assessment and management of environmental and social impacts and risks;
5. Content and process of impact assessment and management of social impacts and risks;
6. Content and procedure of integrated impact assessment;
7. Assessment and management of environmental risks and impacts;
8. Managing the environmental and social impact assessment process;
9. Consultation and information disclosure.
The above documents were completed in December 2020.

4. Participation in Social Feedback: Commenting on the Draft Law on Environmental Protection 2020

Continuing various comments of VESDEC on the revised Law on Environmental Protection in 2019, in 2020 at the request of leaders of the Vietnam Association for the Conservation of Nature and Environment (VACNE), VESDEC experts have compiled 2 new reports:
- Comments on appraisal of SEA reports in the revised Law on Environmental Protection and propose guidelines for assessment of EIA quality;
- Proposal of the improvement of SEA and EIA regulations related to the environmental, economic and social fields.
The specific, scientific and practical comments in the two above documents have been synthesized by VACNE and transferred to the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations.

5. Study and preparation of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for “the Mekong Delta Integrate Regional Planning (MDIRP) for the period 2021 - 2030, with a vision to 2050"

This is the most important project in 2020. VESDEC's environmental and social experts in collaboration with domestic and international experts have focused most of their time and effort from March to December 2020 to carry out this very large and complex study.
The MDIRP for the period 2021 - 2030 with a vision to 2050 is the first regional master plan prepared under the new Planning Law. This project is invested by the Ministry of Planning and Investment, and is an important component of the Project "Resilient to climate change and sustainable livelihoods in the Mekong Delta" funded by the World Bank (WB). The consultant for the implementation of the plan is a joint venture of Royal HaskoningDHV (Netherlands) and GIZ (Germany). Implementation time is from June/2019 to December, 2020.
The outstanding feature of this SEA research process is that it is carried out almost concurrently with the regional planning study, so the environmental and social issues of the SEA are fully integrated into the planning process. Therefore, the implementation of this SEA has many positive points but also many challenges compared to other SEAs studied after the plan has been drafted.
The main SEA consultant team includes 4 Vietnamese experts (Assoc.Prof. Dr. Le Trinh, Assoc.Prof. Dr. Pham Hong Nhat: Environmental experts and SEA; Dr. Huynh Ngoc Tuyet, MSc Nguyen Minh Chau: sociologists) and 2 international experts (Jiri Dusik: International SEA Advisor, Rens Hasman: environmentalist) led by Le Trinh with the support of Koos Neefless - a climate change expert and many experts in irrigation, hydrology and ecology and environmental technology.
The SEA study was carried out in accordance with the requirements on the content and structure of Form 1a, Appendix 1, Circular 25/2019 / TT-BTNMT (MONRE) and also meets the safeguard policies of WB.
In mid-November 2020, the SEA consultant team completed a draft of the main report (710 pages with over 150 data tables, over 100 maps and diagrams) and appendices (180 pages) with a lot of quantitative and semi-quantitative forecasts on the changes of the eight key environmental and social issues that were selected through consultation (water resource degradation; land resource degradation; increased intrusion salinity; degradation of biological resources / biodiversity; increased wastes; increased pollution; social impacts and impacts on physical cultural resources) due to the impact of directions and projects in the  two options of "Not implementing the Regional Plan" (Option Zero) and "Implementing the Regional Plan". The study also proposed solutions to minimize negative impacts, monitor the environment and adapt to climate change.
In addition, over 100 projects with a large potential for environmental impact proposed in the MDIRP were also preliminarily assessed by a matrixes with scoring.

In addition to changes in water resources, land resources , environmental pollution, waste emissions, climate change, ecological and social issues are also the main subjects in forecasting changes and proposing mitigation. The requirements for Vietnamese and international advanced SEA content and methods have been fulfilled. This is the outstanding advantage of this SEA.

The effectiveness of SEA

The MDIRP  has been adjusted according to the Planning Team's view of nature conservation and environmental protection, quantitatively calculated by the SEA consultant team to demonstrate that this adjustment is of great environmental benefit and climate change response:

(i) Adjustment and conversion of more than large 10 coal-fired power centers to use LNG in order to significantly reduce  air pollution emissions, greenhouse gas emissions and reduce almost all coal ash and slag generation. By 2030, the Mekong Delta will develop about 11 large-capacity LNG power plants, with a total maximum capacity of 17,200 MW.
(ii) Proposing to add renewable energy projects (solar power, wind power, waste power) to increase energy sources and reduce environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Wind and solar power plants in the provinces with maximum installed capacity are expected in the period 2021 - 2030 and beyond is 9,500 MW.
(iii) Adjusting the area of ​​rice cultivation in the whole region from about 1.9 million hectares at present and 1.6 million hectares by 2030 in the Decision No. 324 /QD-TTg of the Prime Minister to 1,427. 900 ha (by 2030) and 1.36 million ha by 2050. It will reduce freshwater demand for the whole region to adapt to saline intrusion and impacts of water use in the upper Mekong. This is a major adjustment of thinking and traditions in the use of land and water resources for economic development associated with climate change response in the Mekong Delta.
(iv) Adjusting the area of ​​aquaculture shrimp farming from the current 811,000 ha to 900,000 ha (2030) and 950,000 ha (2050) in order to increase economic efficiency and to adapt to saline water intrusion and respond to climate change.
(v) Adjust the current forest area to only 4.3% of the Mekong Delta natural area to 9.0% by 2050 in order to increase the efficiency of nature conservation and response to climate change.

Thus, the SEA study together with regional planning have great effect in integrating economic development planning with natural resource protection, environment, social security and climate change adaptation in the Mekong Delta. This is the outstanding advantage of this SEA.
During the SEA research study, 6 consultation meetings with stakeholders (environmental experts; ministries; institutes and socio-political organizations: Vietnam Fatherland Front, Vietnam Women's Union, Vietnam Farmers Association, Vietnam Veterans Association, Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations in 13 provinces in the Mekong Delta) were organized by MPI. The SEA report, updated in December  2020, has been revised and supplemented according to many valid comments from these consultation meetings.
The SEA report will be reviewed by the MONRE’ SEA Appraisal Council  in January 2021.

A summary of the SEA report is provided in the document in this website.

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Source: VESDEC Office, January, 10th, 2021

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