Residents receive last year’s environmental incident compensation in central Quảng Trị's Vinh Linh District. — VNA/VNS Photo Trần Tĩnh
HÀ NỘI - Deputy Prime Minister Trương Hoà Bình has urged four localities affected by last year’s environmental incident to accelerate the disbursement of compensation and complete the process by June 30.
He made the request yesterday at the eighth meeting of the Steering Committee on stabilising the lives and production of people in four central coastal provinces – Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị, and Thừa Thiên – Huế, which were ravaged by environmental disaster caused by Taiwanese firm Formosa in April last year.
Following the Government’s direction, the four provinces established inter-sector teams to inspect and supervise compensation for affected local people.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Vũ Văn Tám said that after four periods of compensation disbursement, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc provided an advance payment of more than VNĐ7 trillion (US$304.4 million) to the four provinces.
As of May 31 this year, the four provinces disbursed more than VNĐ4.5 trillion ($195.7 million), making up about 65 per cent of the total disbursement.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, by May 30 this year, more than 1,100 tonnes of contaminated seafood was destroyed.
The Deputy Prime Minister emphasised two requirements, which focus on addressing the consequences of the incident while creating conditions for locals to support their livelihoods as well as implementing projects to regenerate profits from aquatic products and ensure an environment monitoring system.
He said that until now the compensation progress has been conducted in an open, transparent manner with the supervision of the Fatherland Front, community and associations.
He asked the ministries of Health, Natural Resources and Environment and relevant agencies to continue supervision on seafood and seawater quality in the four central provinces.
The health minister is responsible for testing seafood quality on the seabed, comparing it to safety indicators from other neighbouring localities and international reference points.
“If the fish are not safe for consumption, fishermen must be banned from catching fish from the seabed,” he said.
Bình also assigned the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to conduct inspections on Formosa in terms of waste water, emissions and solid waste.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development must work with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to review the recovery of eco-systems in the central coastal provinces to implement projects serving marine economic growth and tourism, he said.
According to the report by relevant agencies at the meeting, aquatic production, tourism and local livelihoods have gradually stabilised.
The number of fishing boats going offshore has increased. As many as 70-80 per cent of the vessels operating near the coast have resumed operation, while the figure is 80-90 per cent for offshore fishing boats. Seafood exploitation output in the first quarter of this year reached 25,386 tonnes, a decline of 8.8 per cent compared to the same period last year.
The total fish raising output of the four provinces in the first three months this year was more than 6,200 tonnes, an increase of 3.12 per cent year-on-year.
The seafood business has resumed, however, business facilities still face challenges related to infrastructure and capital during the recovery process.
Meanwhile, the four provinces have also stepped up tourism promotion activities to prepare for the upcoming tourism season.
The mass fish deaths were first reported on April 6, 2016 when a large number of fish washed ashore in Hà Tĩnh Province. The incident also occurred in Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên – Huế provinces.
About 70 tonnes of dead fish were found in the four provinces and Thừa Thiên – Huế alone reported 35 tonnes of farm-raised fish had died.
The pollution also affected more than 260,000 people who earn their living from the sea.
In June last year, Formosa accepted responsibility for the fish deaths and pledged compensation to local fishermen and to help renew the polluted marine environment. – VNS