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Mekong Delta suffers as factories dump waste into local river system

Update: October, 13/2014 - 09:19
In August, hundreds of citizens in Thanh Phu commune in the southern most province of Ca Mau destroyed one of CaMau Seafood Processing and Service JSC's waste-water pipes, apparently to obtain evidence that the factory was polluting the water ways.— Photo tienphong

CA MAU (VNS) — Newly built seafood and garment factories have polluted once-pristine rural areas in the Mekong delta, but relief seems far away.

In August, hundreds of citizens in Thanh Phu commune in the southern most province of Ca Mau destroyed one of CaMau Seafood Processing and Service JSC's waste-water pipes, apparently to obtain evidence that the factory was polluting the water ways.

"The untreated waste water was dumped directly into our rivers and then our shrimp ponds, killing them all," said Pham Van Danh, a resident who participated in the pipe-breaking incident. "We've been filing complaints to relevant agencies, but nobody has done anything about it. That's why we are going to stop them from polluting our rivers."

The chairman of the Thanh Phu People's Committee, Nguyen Duy Hung, said he understood the frustration of the people, but the problem came under the jurisdiction of the province's Department of Natural Resources and Environment, and all he could do was report the situation and wait.

The dozen or so seafood factories in the area don't just dump unprocessed waste into the rural community's water, they also emit air that smells like rotting meat, causing people to fall ill, said Tran Van Toan, a senior citizen from Thanh Phu commune.

A total of 48 seafood factories in the province are operating in residential areas, said the vice director of the Ca Mau Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Ngo Nhat Thanh. Some of them have water-treatment units, but it's difficult to monitor them, he said.

Angry residents said the Government urgently needed to relocate more than 100 households near the factories.

Random water testing near the factories by the Department of Natural Resources and Environment has already revealed pollution levels many times higher than permitted.

Coconut Tree Garment One Member Co., Ltd of Tien Thuy Commune in Ben Tre Province, is facing a heavy fine for pollution. The company used chemical products to clean fur clothing.

It is accused of dumping the resulting waste-water into nearby waterways, despite regular inspections and warnings from local authorities, said Tran Minh Hieu, chairman of the Tien Thuy People's Committee. The practice seriously affected the health of local people.

Last month, environmental inspectors from Ben Tre Province's Department of Natural Resources and Environment spoke to the company about breaches in environmental protection laws.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment inspection team found harmful chemicals were being released into the environment without being processed.

The province's Department of Natural Resources and Environment has recommended the province's People's Committee close down the factory for three months.

It wants the company to build a waste processing unit before it is allowed to operate again. A fine of US$30,000 was recommended. — VNS

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