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Cassava factory lays waste to livelihoods

Update: January, 13/2014 - 09:14
Yen Binh Starch Processing Factory.— Photo daidoanket

HA NOI (VNS)— For several years, thousands of residents in the Yen Binh district in the northern province of Yen Bai have endured significant pollution generated by a local cassava starch processing factory.

Located in the Vu Linh Commune, the Yen Binh Starch Processing Factory releases thousands of cubic meters of waste water into the environment every day, according to Ha Manh Cuong, the vice director of the province's Natural Resources and Environment Department.

Such copious quantities of waste water are severely polluting the water sources around the plant, Cuong added.

The pollution is contaminating the underground water, as a result of which local residents cannot use the water from almost any of the wells in the commune.

Tran Thi Lien (not her real name), a local resident, was quoted by the Dai doan ket (Great National Unity) newspaper as saying that the locals have suffered the pollution problems for 10 years, which is when the plant started its operations.

"The pollution becomes worse when it rains because the waste water flows into our gardens and even into our houses," she complained, adding that the residents are forced to shut the doors and windows of their houses for the whole day to prevent the entry of chemical-laden air.

Lien also pointed out that several people are contracting respiratory diseases and the number of people dying young is increasing.

Meanwhile, water from the Hang Luon irrigation dam is reported to have a toxic stench and turned pitch black because of the massive pollution caused by the factory.

Standing by the dam, another resident, who wished to remain anonymous, noted that the fish and shrimps near the dam are dying and that the productivity of farms irrigated with the contaminated water has decreased sharply.

"Domestic animals, such as cows, buffalos, chicken and pigs, are facing stunted growth and in extreme cases, have died after drinking water from the local ditch, stream or river," he added.

Under strong pressure from local authorities, in 2010, the plant was forced to build a waste water treatment system at a cost of US$2 million following the Clean Development Mechanism, said Pham Van Doan, the vice director of the province's Natural Resources and Environment Department.

"However, the system has, so far, processed only 30 per cent of the total waste produced by the plant. The remaining waste water continues to be released into the open environment every day," he added.

Doan noted that that the factory has been fined several times for its violations of environmental regulations. The most recent penalty of VND50 million (nearly US$2,400) was handed out in 2012.

In a recent document released by the department, the plant is required to reduce its production capacity, while implementing measures to tackle the pollution problem.

"If the plant fails to do so, it will certainly be forced to stop operating," Doan added. — VNS


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