|Farmers do ploughing on rice field in Nghe An's Nhan Son Commune, where pesticide pollution is a critical problem. — VNS Photo Phuoc Buu
by Phuoc Buu
NGHE AN (VNS) — Families in a commune in the central province of Nghe An are using water contaminated with pesticides for daily life, ignoring the potential harm it poses.
Nguyen Thi Hien, 48, a resident of Nhan Son Commune in the province's Do Luong District, said her house was built on a landfill area where pesticides were buried, but her family still drank water from the well. Back in 1995, they were unaware of the potential risks the pesticides held.
Water from Hien's well does not smell of pesticides, but the water from Nguyen My Bay's well 50m down the road has a distinct odour, so Bay has to take water from a well far from home.
"I know the pesticides are harmful, but I have no other options. The well is our only source of water," said Hien, who witnessed the contamination of the area in the 1990s.
Hien said when she was digging the foundations for the house in 1995 she found barrels of 666 and Basagran.
Other residents said in 2010 they found a 100-litre barrel containing chemicals left over from a co-operative in a rice field near Hien's house.
Dinh Van Thu, 64, said that two big warehouses were used to store pesticides and fertilisers in the commune, which belonged to the former Thong Nhat and Lien Minh agricultural co-operatives that operated from 1975 to 1993.
Hien's house is located where Thong Nhat's warehouse was based. At the old Lien Minh co-operative site, about ten families are drawing water from wells dug directly on the landfill site.
"I know its true but we only have well water for daily use and we feel the water is okay," said Nguyen Viet Binh, 41, a resident living on the site.
One kindergarten in the commune is located on the warehouse's foundation.
Vo Huu Chuong, an official in the Nhan Son Commune People's Committee, said officials were aware of pollution from the pesticide warehouses and landfill sites.
He said that some families had reported the contaminated well water to the committee, but no measures had been taken as no "critical cases" had been reported, he said.
Viet Nam News contacted directors of the province's Department of Environment Protection and Department of Natural Resources and Environment about the issue, but they refused to release any information related to pesticide pollution in the province.
Almost every province in the central region suffers from pesticide pollution from agricultural co-operatives that operated from 1975-1993. Only Thua Thien - Hue Province has cleaned up the contaminated earth.
Based on a report by Viet Nam News in March last year about the pollution in Quang Tri Province, German organisation Rosa Luxembourg Stiftung Viet Nam deployed staff to investigate the site. They also provided funds for the Centre for Social Research and Development to investigate pesticide pollution in other central provinces in July, and held a conference in September with the Hue based Centre for Social Research and Development to resolve the issue.
The two organisations are going to hold a media campaign on the issue, expecting to draw attention from local authorities and NGOs working on clean water for residents in polluted areas.
The campaign also aims to educate residents on how to protect themselves before authorities and NGOs can help rectify the situation. — VNS