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High cancer rates, pollution plague villages in Bắc Giang

Update: April, 25/2016 - 09:00
A pond is pollutaed in My Điền Village in the northern Bắc Giang Province. – Photo danviet.vn

BẮC GIANG – Widow Thân Thị Ngoan, of My Điền Village in the northern Bắc Giang Province, said in tears that her husband died six months after discovering he had stomach cancer.

When he was alive, he rarely got sick and did hard labour as a construction worker in the city to feed his family of six, Ngoan said.

She faced additional pain and loss when three close relatives of hers from the same village died of cancer.

Phùng Minh Toản, village head, said there were about 60 deaths from cancer in the last seven years.

On average, seven or eight out of every 10 deaths have stemmed from cancer in recent years, Toản said. Earlier this year, two local young people died from cancer, and in all three villages of Hoàng Ninh Commune, a number of local villagers suffered from cancer.

“We feel true fear because diseases are developing,” Toản said.              

Two industrial parks of Đình Trám and Vân Trung were built in Hoàng Ninh Commune from 2003 to 2008.

Eighty-two per cent of farming land in the three villages of Mỹ was rezoned into industrial land.

When asked about the environment, communal People’s Committee officer Lê Xuân Hiệp said a garbage dump obstructed access into the commune. Waste and sewage flowed into all the villages.

A local 60-year-old woman said a truck comes to collect rubbish twice a week, but sometimes it only swings by once a month.

In addition to garbage pollution, My Điền villagers must also face polluted water sources.

In past years, villagers relied on shallow wells as their primary water source, but those wells ran dry, so they were forced to drill new, deeper wells.

At present, the residents of three villages are using well water, but those water sources have become contaminated, according to local woman Nguyễn Thị Huệ.

‘No fish can survive’

Lê Xuân Hiệp and many residents of My Điền 1 village said the well water is so yellow that their white shirts are soiled after washing them with the water.

Phùng Minh Toản, the village head, said a few tests of individual water sources have revealed that the local water is contaminated with iron and bacteria.

“Polluted water poses dangers for disease. Maybe it is causing the increase of cancer rates in the area,” Toản said.

He said local households empty their wastewater into ditches and canals that run along the village, which turns the water black.

“Rubbish floats on the surface of the pond and lake,” he said. “No type of fish can survive in the rivers of the black water.”

Continue to live, ignore cancer

A district budget-funded project to supply clean water to My Điền village launched in 2008. The project ended two years later, while water pipes leading to residential houses were left unfinished, according to Toản.

“Several billions of đồng invested in the project was wasted,” he said. “I don’t know what the cause is.”

Lê Văn Bắc, chairman of Hoàng Ninh Commune’s People’s Committee, said local authorities are looking for a suitable place for a new dumping ground, but they have faced many challenges.

Budgeted expenditures are low, making it difficult for communal authorities to hire employees to collect rubbish every day.

An official from Việt Yên District’s health centre said there has not yet been an official report or investigation into the cancer epidemic in the village.

Deputy Head of Việt Yên District’s environment department Nguyễn Xuân Điệp said district funds for the environment are limited, so they can only focus on tackling the rubbish collection issue at present. -- VNS

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