20 Jun 2024

Science and Education Needs for Environmental Management and Sustainable Development in Developing Countries: The Case of Vietnam

Tham C. Hoang, Auburn University; Ross Smith, Hydrobiology; Bryan W. Brooks, Baylor University

The global environment is changing because of human development, especially in developing countries with blooming economies in Southeast Asia. Although economic and industrial development is necessary for human society, environmental consequences can occur if management of natural resources is not cautiously taken. To support sustainable development, protection of the environment and human health is therefore vitally important. Environmental protection can be achieved through various strategies, such as regulatory mandates from management agencies, increasing public knowledge and awareness about environmental problems and impacts, and innovation by industries. Regardless, applying science to management is essential. Over the past 15 years, SETAC Asia-Pacific (SAP) has supported a group of SETAC scientists, led by Tham Hoang of Auburn University, to organize conferences and training workshops in Vietnam to help enhance research and education collaboration among scientists around the world, especially across developing countries in Southeast Asia and developed countries. Thus far, a series of four international conferences on environmental pollution, restoration, and management (ICEPORM) and ten training workshops have been organized. In addition to connecting scientists for collaboration, the conferences facilitated engagement of environmental managers with the scientific community, particularly managers of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Vietnam (MONRE).

The 4th ICEPORM Conference was successfully organized at the International Center for Interdisciplinary Science and Education (ICISE) in Quy Nhon, Vietnam, on 3–7 March. The conference had an attendance of over 120 environmental scientists and managers from 15 countries and covered a variety of topics including environmental pollution, toxicology, chemistry and engineering technologies, and risk assessment and management. In addition, the conference also received participation and support of Deputy Minister of MONRE, Lê Công Thành, and the Ambassador of France, Olivier Brochet. The conference provided opportunities for participants to present research results, share experiences and develop future collaborations. More scientists, including several students from Vietnam, became SAP members after the conference.  

Panelists at the ICEPORM meeting pose with the meeting title slide

After the conference in Quy Nhon, two separate meetings with the government of Vietnam were held in Hanoi. A group of 30 senior international and Vietnamese scientists met with Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, Trần Hồng Hà, and the Minister of MONRE, Đặng Quốc Khánh, to discuss and provide suggestions and recommendations for management to increase environmental protection to support sustainable development of Vietnam. Below are the suggestions:

  • Environmental impact and risk assessments for ecosystems and human health to support environmental permitting, regulation, and management to promote industrial development and environmental protection.
  • Environmental monitoring and remediation to reduce pollution impacts.
  • Development of relevant environmental quality criteria for Vietnam to help increase the effectiveness of environmental management to protect natural ecosystems.
  • Environmental education to increase awareness and understanding regarding the impacts of environmental pollution on human health, biodiversity, ecosystem services and sustainable economic development.
Dignitaries and scientists sit around a conference table.

A training workshop on environmental risk assessment and management, including the use of weight-of-evidence approaches, was presented at the MONRE offices to senior staff of MONRE and other departments.  The workshop was based on the format developed by SETAC for similar workshops in Cape Town, South Africa, Daegu, South Korea, and Santos, Brazil. Thanks to the former Executive Director of SETAC, Charlie Menzie, for providing the previous materials, and to Jenny Stauber, SETAC Fellow, for helping with adapting the material and presenting at the workshop. Feedback from the workshop attendees was very positive.

Panelists at the ICEPORM meeting pose with the meeting title slide

After the meetings, a proposed research initiative to develop relevant environmental quality criteria, which is necessary for protecting the natural ecosystems of Vietnam, was encouraged. A proposal on increasing environmental education and awareness has also been proposed. The conference committee expects to implement these initiatives in 2025 to help enhance environmental toxicology and chemistry research and protection in Vietnam. 

Author’s contact: [email protected]