Toxic waste wipes out fishing in four Vietnam provinces

Church aid agencies are playing their part to support people in Vietnam whose livelihoods have been devastated by industrial marine pollution.

On April 6, dead fish began washing ashore along 200 kilometres of the coastal provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue.

Nearly three months later, authorities announced that toxic waste, including phenol and cyanide, from a Taiwanese-built steel plant, a unit of Formosa Plastics, poisoned the waters.

A drainage pipe connected to the facility based in Ha Tinh province allegedly discharged 10,240 cubic metres of toxic waste into the sea each day, it is alleged.

A government minister said the company agreed to pay US$500 million in recompense for damages it caused to the people and the environment.

Officials put the loss to fishers in the four provinces at 76,000 tons of seafood due to the marine pollution.

One fisher, Michael Vo Van Hong, who has lost his livelihood, predicted it would take at least three years for the seas to recover.

Since May, fishers and salt workers affected by the marine pollution have been given 15 kilograms of rice a month by the government.

Fr Anthony Nguyen Ngoc Ha, head of Caritas in the Hue archdiocese, said that 20 parishes have been badly affected by the marine pollution. Some of them are lacking basic food.

“We have offered money and five tonnes of rice to affected fishing communities regardless of their backgrounds,” Fr Ha said.

“We will continue to collect donations from benefactors and give to the victims until they can fish again.”

He said Caritas plans to conduct courses in vocational skills for local people needing to change how they make a living.

On June 20, a group of American volunteers led by Sister of Mercy Anna Nguyen Thi Hang visited and donated rice, instant noodles and money to 300 households in Phu Hai commune.

“We want to share something with you as our deep communion with you. We will continue to make donations to help you in the future,” Sr Hang told beneficiaries.


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