Action Research Books

Social Justice, Environment and Livability books from MIT Press

Community-Driven Regulation

Community-Driven Regulation: Balancing Development and the Environment in Vietnam

Dara O’Rourke

December 2003, MIT Press

In Community-Driven Regulation Dara O’Rourke proposes a new policy model for pollution control, based on detailed case studies from rapidly industrializing Vietnam. He shows that environmental problems can be solved when affected community groups mobilize to pressure both state and industry and argues that this strategy, which he terms “community-driven regulation,” used successfully in Vietnam, can achieve similar success in other countries.

Vietnam’s recent entry into the world economy has brought many benefits to its population–more jobs, higher income levels, more plentiful goods and services. But this very rapid growth of industry has also brought predictable environmental problems. Areas near industrial plants experience declining crop yields and polluted groundwater; residents downwind from factories suffer respiratory ailments. Vietnam thus serves as a model for nations dealing with environmental problems during the transition to an industrialized economy and global integration.

O’Rourke offers six detailed case studies, based on his own fieldwork in Vietnam, that show how strategies adopted by local communities achieved positive results despite a strong state bias toward development and the absence of existing advocacy groups, a free press, or politically vulnerable elected officials. The firms studied are both state-run and multinational; they include a Taiwanese textile factory, a state-owned fertilizer plant, and a Korean factory producing shoes for Nike. The communities affected range from traditional villages to urban neighborhoods. O’Rourke’s policy model of community-state synergy challenges traditional notions of state-centric environmental regulation and questions the growing literature that identifies market mechanisms as the best way to solve environmental problems in developing countries.

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