DP20 Crafting sustainability: managing water pollution in Viet Nam’s craft villages

Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper No. 20

By Sango Mahanty, Trung Dinh Dang and Phung Giang Hai

June 2012

The spontaneous growth of Vietnam’s 2,790 rural craft villages has been a mixed blessing. Specializing in ‘traditional’ crafts such as processed foods, textiles and furniture, as well as newer commodities, such as recycled products, craft businesses have expanded rapidly since Vietnam adopted the ’Doi Moi’ (economic renovation policy) in the mid-1980s. As with small scale rural industries in other developing countries, the expansion, modernization and diversification of craft production in Vietnam presents significant development opportunities as well as environmental and social risks. This largely unregulated increase in industrial activity has reduced rural poverty and brought prosperity to rural entrepreneurs, but it has also generated dangerously high levels of pollution with attendant risks to human health. Since the 1990s, the Vietnamese government has developed several laws and initiatives to regulate industrial activities and control craft village pollution, such as the ‘polluter pays principle’. However, the small scale and dispersed nature of craft production has continued to defy effective management by the state, and pollution levels in craft villages have increased alarmingly. The Crafting Sustainability project aimed to provide a better understanding of the drivers of pollution, and policy approaches to better addressing them. Drawing on four cases study sites in the Red River Delta region of Northern Vietnam, this paper provides an overview of key findings and policy recommendations.

Mahanty, S., Dang, T. D. & Hai, P. G. 2012, ‘Crafting sustainability: managing water pollution in Viet Nam’s craft villages’, Discussion Paper No. 20, Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra.

Karen Downing

Karen Downing is Research Communications Coordinator at the Development Policy Centre.