River pollution continues to plague Thanh Hoa's fish farmers

By Le Hoang   May 16, 2016 | 06:01 pm GMT+7

Fish farmers in the northern province of Thanh Hoa’s Thach Thanh district are continuing to count their losses as mass fish deaths resulting from polluted wastewater show no sign of abating.

Local residents said that more fish raised in cages have died over the past two days following the recent mass fish deaths that have already killed more than 17 tons of farmed fish and affected 34 households in the communes of Thach Lam, Thach Quang, Thanh My and Thanh Vinh.

An additional 1.1 tons of dead fish, mostly grass carp, have been found along the Buoi River at 10 more farms in the communes of Thach Cam and Thach Dinh, according to local people.

“The fish looked fine but they suddenly got lethargic. At first just a few of them died but then the entire stock was gone,” said farmer Nguyen Van Giam, who has lost around 500 kilograms of fish over the past few days.

Initial investigations show that a huge amount of untreated wastewater discharged from a sugar plant in the neighboring province of Hoa Binh has caused the mass fish deaths along the Buoi River.

river-pollution-continues-to-plague-thanh-hoas-fish-farmers

About 1 ton of dead fish, mostly grass carp, were found in 10 more farms in the communes of Thach Cam and Thach Dinh. Photo by Le Hoang

Local authorities have collected the dead fish and buried them to prevent them from reaching the market.

“The Buoi River is heavily polluted but farmers cannot afford to move their fish to less affected waters. Even if they want to mitigate losses by selling the remainder of their living fish as quickly as possible, nobody will buy them,” said Pham Lam Dong, secretary of the Communist Party in Thach Dinh commune, where 16 households have incurred heavy losses.

He added that local authorities have donated 10 kilograms of rice to all those affected.

“The mass fish deaths is just one problem. I’m more concerned about the lack of clean water for our 117 hectares of winter-spring rice crop,” Dong said, predicting more fish deaths due to untreated polluted wastewater in the Buoi River.

Several hectares of rice and farm produce are desperately in need of water, but because local authorities have yet to find the cause of the fish deaths, farmers are not allowed to use water from the Buoi River, said Pham Trong Dung, deputy secretary of the Communist Party in Thach Thanh district.

river-pollution-continues-to-plague-thanh-hoas-fish-farmers-1

Local authorities have buried the dead fish in deep pits. Photo by Le Hoang

Last week, Hoa Binh Sugarcane and Sugar JSC admitted to illegally discharging wastewater into the Buoi River without proper treatment, and agreed to pay VND1.4 billion ($63,000) in compensation to hundreds of fish farmers.

Local residents discovered dead fish floating in the river on May 4, and said the water had turned a muddy blue color and started to smell.

Since then, more than 18 tons of fish in Thach Thanh district have died, statistics from the district's People’s Committee show.