Vietnam puts high-risk projects on pollution surveillance list, including Formosa

By Vo Hai   November 27, 2017 | 02:03 am PT
Vietnam puts high-risk projects on pollution surveillance list, including Formosa
Formosa steel plant in Ha Tinh Province in central Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung
The environment ministry is trying to prevent disasters like the toxic spill that ravaged the central coast last year.

Vietnam is going to closely monitor a number of investment projects that pose high risks to the environment, including the Taiwanese steel plant notorious for causing a massive toxic spill last year.

Formosa Ha Tinh on the central coast has been listed among 28 projects in the steel, cement, thermal power and mining industries that need special surveillance, the environment ministry said at a press briefing on Monday.

“These projects could have huge environmental impacts if they are not properly run,” said Hoang Van Thuc, a senior environment protection official at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Thuc said the blacklist will be updated every few years to remove well-performing investors and add new riskier projects.

He said the decision will give officials a more active position to prevent disasters like the Formosa incident, which shocked the entire nation and the international community at large.

The toxic spill, first reported in April 2016, has been named the worst environmental disaster in Vietnam’s history. It has devastated sea life and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism. The toxic spill polluted 125 miles of coastline in Ha Tinh and three nearby provinces. The Taiwanese operator agreed to pay $500 million in compensation in June last year.

The environment ministry said the affected region might need a decade to completely recover from the incident, while experts predict the disaster may set Vietnam’s economy back by years.

Environment officials allowed the plant to restart operations in late May, saying it had met all the necessary environmental requirements.

The ministry said sewage and emissions from the plant were within acceptable limits most of the time.

Sulfuric and nitric emissions had exceeded the limits on a number of occasions, but only when the plant was testing its capacity to decide on further technical investments, officials said.

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