Dead fish hit the streets as Vietnamese farmers protest pollution

By Phuoc Tuan, Xuan Thang   October 13, 2016 | 02:42 am PT
Dead fish hit the streets as Vietnamese farmers protest pollution
Farmers in Vung Tau occupy part of a highway with dead fish for three hours Thursday. Photo by VnExpress
Fish farmers have repeatedly demanded compensation from seafood processors.

Fish farmers in the southern beach town of Vung Tau laid out dead fish during a street protest on Thursday morning, accusing seafood processors of discharging untreated sewage into the sea.

The protest, a rare occurrence in Vietnam, caused congestion on part of Highway 51 at around 9 a.m. as dozens of farmers placed dead fish weighing at least five kilograms on the street. Vehicles were forced to take other routes.

Farmed fish along the Cha Va River have been dying en masse over the past two days, and the river has turned black with a foul smell, the farmers said.

The same situation happened in September last year when tons of fish died and caused farmers losses worth nearly $800,000. Farmers also held similar protests on the street and in front of a local government office at that time.

In May, 33 fish farming families filed a class action lawsuit against 14 seafood companies to demand compensation after the Institute of Environment and Natural Resources concluded that untreated waste from the processing units was the culprit.

Only two of the companies have agreed to pay VND300 million ($13,400).

“They have not only ignored the lawsuit, they are causing more pollution,” a farmer said, sitting among the fish on the highway.

The protest only stopped after three hours when they were invited to a meeting at the provincial government office of Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.

Nguyen Thanh Tinh, the provincial chairman, said the compensation process needs time while the new fish death scandal has to be investigated.

He said the province is still counting the number of dead fish in the new case and will announce the results of the investigation this week.

Vietnam has been beset by water pollution scandals lately, with various cases of mass fish deaths in many places across the country, including Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Nearly 70 tons of dead fish were collected from Ho Chi Minh City’s Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal in May after the first heavy rains of the year washed waste from sewage pipes.

Around 200 tons of dead fish were collected from Hanoi’s West Lake earlier this month and the polluters have yet to be identified.

In April, an estimated 70 tons of dead fish washed ashore along more than 200 kilometers of coast in the country's central provinces of  Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue, creating a seafood scare across the country. Taiwanese steel firm Formosa has admitted to discharging untreated waste into the sea and government officials are still distributing its $500 million compensation payment.

Related news:

Fish death disaster will hurt Vietnam’s economy for years to come: official

Rotting fish cast stench over Hanoi lake

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