DONG NAI (VNS) — Despite repeated warnings from local authorities of high dioxin levels at the lake near Bien Hoa Airport, in the southern Dong Nai province, many people continued to fish there.
On the 2m-high wall off the airport and residential area, local authorities have installed a warning board which reads: "Dioxin/ Agent Orange (AO) - contaminated lake. Don't use any foodstuff being planted or exploited here, that endangers human health".
Ignoring the warning, numerous groups comprising 2 to 10 local residents each cross the barrier to fish in the lake every morning. They snare a maximum 40kg of various varieties of fish. Some young men carry the catch on their motorcycles to the township market.
A local said that sometimes they even bring the fish home to prepare for dinner.
According to many residents, fishing has been on here for the past few years, and though local authorities have warned of the dangers involved people have continued to ignore it.
Sometimes when an inspection force lands up the people flee only to return when the inspectors leave.
Dao Nguyen, chairwoman of Dong Nai Province's Association for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin, said local authorities need to stop fishing activities at the lake near Bien Hoa Airport.
She said the association has been increasing communication in the community, especially among residents in the area, about the contamination.
The Vietnamese Ministry of Defence reported in a study conducted between 2000 and 2004 that the level of dioxin at Bien Hoa Airport was 35,000ppt.
The ministry has also cordoned off 94,000sq.m land area near the airport which is contaminated.
Canadian-based Hatfield Consultants, that studied, and is recognised for its important work on, the residual environmental impacts of Agent Orange herbicide used during the Viet Nam war, reported that the levels of dioxin at the airport were much higher than Vietnamese and global standards.
It also suggested prompt action to clean up the area and asked locals to stop raising poultry and fish in the area.
Scientists have identified 28 dioxin hotspots in Viet Nam, including Bien Hoa Airport in Dong Nai Province, Phu Cat Airport in the central coastal province of Binh Dinh, and Da Nang Airport in the central city of the same name.
Between 1962 and 1971, 20 million gallons of defoliants were sprayed over several airports and US military bases across southern Viet Nam, destroying 5 million acres of forests and 500,000 acres of vegetation. At least 4.5 million Vietnamese were exposed to AO and other toxic herbicides. — VNS