Vietnam to announce cause of mass fish deaths today

By Pham Huong   June 29, 2016 | 09:01 am PT
Vietnam to announce cause of mass fish deaths today
Tons of fish died off along the central coast provinces of Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung
Vietnamese government is expected to announce the cause of the mass fish deaths that have plagued the central coast since April at a press conference today in Hanoi.

Government leaders and several ministries will chair the conference which is expected to focus on the cause of the mass fish kills, along with solutions for the environmental disaster and compensation plan for affected fishermen.

In early April, large quantities of fish washed up dead near the Vung Ang Economic Zone in Ha Tinh Province. The disaster stretched 200 kilometers along the central Vietnamese coast, as far south as Thua Thien-Hue, resulting in the death of more than 70 tons of sea fish and 35 tons of farm-raised fish.

Especially hard hit were Ha Tinh, Quang Tri, Quang Binh and Thua Thien Hue provinces where thousands of fishermen lost customers or were forced to sell at a loss.

Two hypotheses have been put forward to explain the disaster. One is an abnormal natural phenomenon that causes algae in the water to bloom at an accelerated rate, commonly known as “red tide”. The other is toxic chemicals released by human activities. Among the discharge sources in the vicinity of Vung Ang, Taiwan's Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, has been echoed by many.

Fishermen and scientists believe the sub-standard treatment of hazardous waste released by Formosa's discharge pipe is the main reason for the fish die-off. Said pipe, 1.5 kilometers long and over one meter wide, was approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment under the industrial waste treatment standard.

The government has coined the mass fish deaths as a first of its kind environmental disaster in Vietnam and ordered several ministries along with about 100 foreign and Vietnamese scientists to investigate the matter.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha, who inspected the Formosa plant, admitted that Vietnamese authorities have been too slow to respond to the unprecedented mass fish deaths due to lack of experience in dealing with such large scale disaster.

Hệ thống xử lý nước thải của Formosa Hà Tĩnh. Ảnh: Đức Hùng.

Wastewater treatment system of Formosa Ha Tinh Steel. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung

Shortly thereafter, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment invited experts from foreign countries, including Germany, Israel and Japan, to help find the cause of the mass fish kill. An inspection team was formed with the participation of representatives of seven ministries to check on Formosa.

On June 2, Minister of Information and Communications Truong Minh Tuan said scientists have identified the cause of the mass fish deaths and promised to announce the formal conclusion of the investigation later in June, after “thorough scientific deliberation” by both Vietnamese and foreign experts.

Formosa Ha Tinh Steel belongs to Formosa Plastics Group (Taiwan) and is expected to be completed in 2017 with total investment of nearly $1 billion. The project features a steel mill complex designed to produce 15 million tons of steel annually.

Taiwan is the third largest foreign investor in Vietnam with total capital of 465.6 million USD, accounting for 11.5 percent of total FDI in Vietnam.

Related news:

White House responds to petition on mass fish deaths in Central Vietnam

Ha Tinh residents anxiously await answers to cause of mass fish deaths

Formosa steel firm puts off operation in Vietnam amid mass fish deaths

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