Sunday, October 16, 2016

Authorities investigate fish death amidst protest in Vung Tau

Authorities in the southern province of Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu are working closely with government agencies to identify the cause of the recent mass death of farm-raised fish in the province’s Long Sơn Commune.

Local farmers dump their dead fish on National Highway 51 to protest mass fish deaths allegedly caused by factory discharge of wastewater into a local river. Photo from Facebook
Farmers affected by the mass deaths protested by dumping their dead fish on National Highway 51 Thursday morning.
A large number of farm-raised fish along the Chà Và River, located in Long Sơn Commune, began dying early in the week, causing huge losses of billions of Vietnamese đồng for farmers.
Mass fish deaths in the province have occurred once or twice a year for the last seven or eight years. However, the number of dead fish has been increasing in recent years.
Farmers dumped the fish on the highway, which traverses Long Sơn Commune, to show their opposition to nearby seafood processing factories that have allegedly discharged wastewater into Chà Và River. Farmers blamed the factories for the mass fish deaths.
Traffic on National Highway was blocked, especially for those travelling between HCM City and Vũng Tàu, after the farmers placed the fish on the road.
Last year, a similar situation in Vũng Tàu City occurred in which local businesses were found responsible for discharging wastewater that killed farm-raised fish.
The businesses, however, have yet to compensate farmers for the damages, according to the affected farmers.
Farmers have also said that provincial authorities had not kept their promise to resolve the mass fish death problem.
Tào Thuý Liễu, a local fish farmer who has had big losses this year and last year, said:  “I can’t remember how many times my fish have died. My family owes about VNĐ500 million (US$22,180) to the bank and other lenders.”
“Fish are the major source of our income. Last year, we heard many promises from the authorities, but the fish have continued to die again. We mortgaged our properties to raise fish and now we have nothing left,” a farmer said.
After local officials at the highway asked the farmers to clear the road, they agreed that they would attend a meeting in the afternoon to discuss the matter with authorities. 
Speaking at the meeting on Thursday, Nguyễn Thanh Tịnh, vice-chairman of the Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province, pledged that authorities would try to resolve the issue.
Huỳnh Văn Thêm, deputy head of the province’s Veterinary Department, said the fish might have been killed because of a lack of oxygen caused by recent torrential rains.
One farmer disagreed, saying wastewater discharged by the local seafood processing factories was the “chief cause”.
The fish started dying after wastewater was discharged into the Chà Và River, according to the farmers.
Nguyễn Văn Hồng, deputy manager of the Irrigation Work Division under the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said: “The wastewater was discharged in accordance with procedures, which helps prevent flooding at nearby paddy fields.”
Pham Văn Mạnh, deputy director of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said that a total of six factories were discharging wastewater during  operations and that the volume of liquid waste was low.
However, farmer Nguyễn Công Biên, who suffered the heaviest loss, disagreed, saying that he could name five more businesses that had also discharged wastewater into Chà Và river.
Nguyễn Thanh Tịnh, vice-chairman of the province, pledged to inspect the local factories’ operations more closely.
Tịnh also agreed to let local farmers take part in the monitoring process with the authority and promised to help farmers extend and postpone their loan payments to banks.

The dead fish were first found floating in water in farming cages on Wednesday evening.
Read more at dtinews


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