|Local farmers dump their dead fish on National Highway 51 to protest mass fish deaths, allegedly caused by factory discharge of wastewater into a local river. Photo from Facebook|
HCM CITY — Authorities in the southern province of Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu are working with government agencies to provide financial assistance to farmers who suffered losses after the recent mass death of farm-raised fish in Long Sơn Commune.
At a meeting with the farmers on Thursday, Trần Văn Cường, deputy director of the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), said the province was estimating the individual losses before announcing details of support.
Cường added that the province would help farmers extend their loan payment terms at banks.
Early last week, many fish raised in cages in the Chà Và River in Long Sơn Commune began dying.
On Oct 10 and 11, more than 254 tonnes of farm-raised fish, which were about to be harvested, died, causing losses of more than VNĐ29 billion (US$1.3 million).
Local authorities said that the fish died because of a lack of oxygen caused by torrential rains in addition to the high density of cages.
However, farmers in Long Sơn Commune disagreed. Most of them said the cause was due to waste water discharged by seafood processing factories into the Chà Và River in Tân Hải Commune in Tân Thành District.
“The conclusion reached on the cause was not reasonable,” said Nguyễn Công Biên of Long Sơn Commune. “There was not much rainfall over Oct 10 and 11. After hearing the announcement about the causes, some people disagreed, while others went home without any positive responses.”
Biên, who raised 200 cages of fish, suffered a loss of VNĐ600-700 million (US$26,880-31,360).
To address the strong reactions of farmers, the provincial DARD held a meeting with agencies on Thursday
“This is just a subjective opinion of farmers. We have classified the opinions. Any farmer not satisfied with the conclusion, we will inform them in written form sent to their houses, ” said the deputy director of the department.
In response to the farmers’ request to build a dam to separate the factories’ discharging area from fresh water areas used to raise fish, Cường said that authorities had planned to do it, but “it had been delayed due to financial difficulties”.
“As for the policy to support farmers affected by natural disasters, the province is studying the losses of each farmer before announcing the details of support for them,” Cường told the media.
Regarding a similar case in the commune last year, 33 lawsuits were filed by farmers against 14 seafood processing factories in Tân Hải Commune.
The companies had discharged wastewater directly into the environment, causing a loss of VNĐ18 billion ($800,000).
Farmers and companies are still negotiating their compensation amounts, according to Cường.
Of the total 14, three companies had agreed to pay, but 11 of the businesses have yet to respond.
If the concerned parties cannot resolve the dispute soon, the Vũng Tàu City People’s Court will bring the case to trial, according to local authorities.
Last week farmers in Long Sơn Commune affected by the mass deaths protested by dumping their dead fish on a section of National Highway 51 that cuts through Long Sơn Commune.
The farmers said they dumped the fish to show their opposition to the nearby seafood processing factories.
The incident caused traffic jams on National Highway was blocked, especially for those travelling between HCM City and Vũng Tàu. — VNS