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Local lives stalled by red mud seeping into river from ore factory

Update: August, 03/2015 - 08:59
Waste water resevoir of a local ore factory. Residents living along the Ngoi Lao River in northern provinces of Yen Bai and Phu Tho said red mud from a local ore factory has polluted the area's well water, farmland and fish ponds. — Photo laodong.com.vn

PHU THO (VNS) — Residents living along the Ngoi Lao River in northern provinces of Yen Bai and Phu Tho said red mud from a local ore factory has polluted the area's well water, farmland and fish ponds.

They said they notified authorised agencies and received compensation from the factories, but they still had not been able to start farming again. Their fields and ponds are covered with the red mud.

Dinh Thi Huong, a resident in My Lung Commune in Phu Tho Province, said she had to pump water from the well and wait until the mud settled before her family could use it.

Huong said she had to use her neighbours' filtered water for her 3-year-old child. Filters provide little help because they soon become blocked with mud.

Nguyen Van Lien, head of the commune's Village 3B, said mud covered the Ngoi Lao River so thoroughly that no one dared go near it. A herd of buffaloes owned by resident Tran Thi Hai once got stuck in the river and had to be rescued.

In Yen Bai Province's Chan Thinh Commune, the nearby ore factory complicates matters. The factory's waste reservoir seeped into the irrigation system, which provides water for five villages' farms. It also polluted the Ngoi Lao River there.

In 2013, polluted water covered two hectares of rice fields with a 20 to 60cm layer of red mud. Tens of households protested, and the factory agreed to pay 2 tael of rice for every square metre of contaminated land and VND2,000 (1 US cent) each metre of mud that needed to be removed.

"It did not help much," said Tran Van Dan, a resident of Ao Lay Village.

Ha Manh Cuong, deputy director of Yen Bai Province's Department of Natural Resources and Environment, told Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper that the factory's waste treatment facilities became overloaded in 2013, which caused the pollution.

Provincial authorities worked with the factories, forcing them to pay compensation to affected househonds. The department also fined the company VND300 million ($13,800) after an inspection.

The water did not contain toxic substances and did not harm the people or their rice fields and fish ponds, Cuong said. — VNS

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