Formosa disaster stink lingers as tons of shrimp paste rot

By Hoang Tao   March 24, 2021 | 11:30 pm PT
Different assessments of the damage inflicted by the marine disaster caused by Taiwanese steelmaker Formosa have prevented locals from selling or destroying their shrimp paste.

Bui Xuan Khiem, 63, a resident of Vinh Giang Commune, Vinh Linh District, Quang Tri Province, says his family has been stuck with 44 tons of shrimp paste for five years.

"For all these years, we have not been able to sleep and eat in peace because of the stink," he said.

His family’s warehouse has a capacity of 100 tons, but this has been reduced by half to store the rotting inventory. The rotting shrimp paste belongs to a group of seafood products labeled unsafe for human health following the 2016 marine life disaster.

Formosa had made headlines the world over for causing one of the biggest environmental disasters in Vietnamese history, killing tons of fish across the four coastal provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue.

Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh, a steel production unit of the Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group, was found responsible for the incident after an estimated 70 tons of dead fish washed up ashore along more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) of coastline in April 2016.

Inspections found Formosa’ steel plant in Ha Tinh had discharged waste containing phenol, cyanide and iron hydroxides into the water, harming sea life and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism.

The company has already paid $500 million in compensation, which has been distributed to local victims. More than 200,000 people were directly affected, including 41,000 fishers.

Le Thi Huynh of Cua Tung Town said her family’s warehouse has been stuck with 270 tons of the shrimp paste that "has been seriously spoiled and causing a great stench."

The rotting inventory has chased her customers away because they are afraid that Huynh might use the ruined paste to produce new batches, she said.

Together, Khiem, Huynh and three other households have been living with 500 tons of shrimp paste inventories for almost five years.

Explaining the delay in destroying the product, Nguyen Huu Nam, deputy director of the Quang Tri Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said the two departments of agriculture and health had come up with different data on the amount of seafood products needed to be destroyed and the entire process has been delayed, pending verification.

In the latest move to deal with the situation, Ha Sy Dong, deputy chairman of Quang Tri, told VnExpress Wednesday that the province has assigned the Department of Natural Disaster and Environment to collaborate with related agencies and local authorities to destroy the rotting shrimp paste at the earliest.

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