Environmental disaster in Vietnam

Sep 21


Heiko Grimm

Heiko Grimm

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In Vietnam occurred the biggest environmental disaster since the deployment of Agent Orange by the Americans during the Vietnam War. It happened almost unnoticed by the world while Europe was busy with the refugee crisis and America with the forthcoming presidential elections of the USA. The perpetrators of the environmental disaster come from abroad and are supported by the Vietnamese politicians, similar as it was happen at the Vietnam War.


Beginning in early April 2016 a massive fish deaths on the coast of Vietnam was perceived. The disaster began in Ha Tinh province,Environmental disaster in Vietnam Articles in central Vietnam and then spreads to more than 200 km of coastline, into the provinces of Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien Hue and Da Nang. Since then a few hundred thousands (well much more than 115 tons) of dead fish were purged on the beaches of the region. Thousands of Vietnamese are threatened in their existence.

" in search of those who are responsible for the environmental disaster in Vietnam "

" Do you want fish or steel? "A steel plant of the Taiwanese company Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) in Vietnamese Ha Tinh province has been begins the operation in early April 2016. The mass fish mortality started at the same time. Fishermen of the region discovered some pipelines of the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Company (FHS), which initiated the company's wastewater directly into the sea. The fishermen were sure that they had found the cause of the environmental disaster.

This assumption of the fishermen’s was then confirmed in a first unofficial statement of Formosa. Mr. Chou Chun Fan, a senior manager of the company apologized for the disaster. But he made it clear that one must lose something if ones are planning to win something. He underscored his opinion with the statement: "Do you want fish or do you want a steelworks? You need to decide!". This led to a wave of protests as well to indignation among the Vietnamese population. The allegations were vehemently disclaimed by official side of Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Company (FHS). Mr. Chou Chun Fan was dismissed on the grounds that he does not represent the opinion of the company.

The Vietnamese government in Hanoi practiced restraint. However, it was emphasized that they wanted to solve the case rest. The Vietnamese Deputy Minister for Resources and Environment, Mr. Vo Tuan Nhan spoke the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Company (FHS) free from any responsibility on the environmental disaster during a press conference on 27.04.2016. Cause of the fish deaths was probably rather an algal bloom and the initiation of toxic chemicals by the residents of the region. Questions were not permitted by Vietnamese government during the press conference. Vietnamese civil rights activists assume that corrupt government officials were bribed by the Formosa to cover up the incident.

” Formosa Plastics Group ”The Taiwanese Formosa Plastics Group is with an annual turnover of 78 billion USD and more than 106-thousand employees one of the largest chemical concerns in the world. The Group operates numerous subsidiaries in Taiwan, China, Vietnam as well in the United States and other countries. The owners and the management of the Formosa Plastics Group were in 2009 denounced, by the ethecon - Foundation for Ethics & Economics with the Black Planet Award as they belonging to the persons who are responsible for the largest pollution at the earth.

" Vietnam rebelled "Since April 2016 until the present day, it comes almost daily in whole Vietnam to spontaneous and organized protests against the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Company (FHS). Protests against Formosa from Hanoi up to Ho Chi Minh City. Also oversea Vietnamese who have found a new home in other countries of the world are gathered together again and again for protest against the current situations in Vietnam. As special in the United States and Australia. At protest rallies of Vietnamese people in Germany it is demanded to stop the payment of development aid to the communist regime in Vietnam but no one is listening. Hundred thousands of victims and sympathizers went since April 2016 already to the streets. They demand fish instead of steel. They are urging the government in Hanoi, to act with full force against the Ha Tinh Formosa Steel Company (FHS). Whatever, they demand to expel this company out of the country.  Even children in Vietnam are complaining: ” Where are our fishes has remained? ”

However, the hardness of the communist regime in Hanoi is not aimed as hoped against those responsible for the environmental disaster. This is geared more towards the protesters and civil rights activists who demand clarification. Even journalists who report about the demonstrations are in the crosshairs of the communist government. Countless of uniformed and civilian security forces are arrayed against the demonstrators. Beside of the peaceful protests it always comes again and again to violent attacks by the police against the demonstrators. Ringleaders are arrested and deported by civilian vehicles. At only one protest rally in Ho Chi Minh City on 15th Mai 2015 are more than 300 demonstrators have been arrested, according to information from civil rights activists. From detention released prisoners reported about physical violence and torture by police. Numerous protesters had to be medically treated.

" Formosa admits blame for environmental disaster in Vietnam "The Vietnamese government has made public the results of investigations on the environmental disaster at a press conference at the end of June 2016. A commission of more than 100 experts and scientists from 30 institutions from home and abroad has identified at the sea a large collection of toxic substances such as phenol, cyanides and iron hydroxides. These were injected into the sea by Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Company. This was done by mistakes and violations of the law during a test operation of the steel plant in Vung Ang (Ha Tinh province). In consequence it led to the mass death of fish.

Formosa had in the meantime at the people of Vietnam and the Vietnamese government officially apologized for causing environmental disaster. The company promised to pay 500 million USD to victims to compensate their economic loss. Furthermore, Formosa stated to be willing for assisting the concerned persons at the retraining into other professions. Thus Formosa purchased the waiving of law enforcement from the Vietnamese government.

Formosa will solve the errors in the disposal of waste water and Formosa will take action in cooperation with the Vietnamese government to control the situation and further development of marine pollution in Central Vietnam and to prevent more contaminations in the future. According to statements of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture in Vietnam, the water quality of the sea in the affected provinces is currently clean and therefore harmless as well safely. It is however questionable to what extent this corresponds to the facts because the analysis of extracted water samples from April 2016 needed time until June 2016 what means whole 3 months for the evaluation.

The fact is that it takes as minimum years or maybe decade of years until the fish at the coast of the provinces of Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien Hue and Da Nang in Vietnam returns and they are safe for human consumption.

" on visit at the victims of the environmental disaster in Vietnam "We drive to Vung Ang in Ha Tinh province where we have a appointment on the beach with Mr. Quang Thanh. The city seems deserted and also the beach looks like orphaned upon our arrival. The numerous fishing boats are covered with tarpaulins.

Next to one of the boats we find Mr. Quang Thanh who is fisherman in the third generation. His face is weathered by sun, wind and salty sea water as well as the color of his boat. His dim eyes from which every shine got lost, looks sad and thoughtful out to the sea. After a brief welcome and a while of silence, we are asking why we have seen in the city and on the beach a very few inhabitants only and Mr Quang Thanh begins to explain:

"Since last April and the beginning of large fish mortality is nothing more so as it once was. The youth is drawn away, to Saigon or Hanoi for finding work and jobs. The elderly remain in their homes. What do they want out there? The air stinks of rotting fish and the boats of fishermen not anymore drive to the sea in the morning. Therefore no one has to wait for them and their catches in the afternoon. Only a few large boats venture out of the 200 miles zone of the coast line to where there still fish is available. But this is dangerous because the fishing boats are there attacked by Chinese ships. One of these boats with a crew of four did not returned from such a journey. But even when these boats return with their catch, it is almost impossible to sell the fish. Restaurants in the region do not offer fish anymore and therefore the catch are usually fed to the chickens or transported to distant regions. Even the fishermen are afraid to eat their own fish. Dried fish, sea salt and our beloved fish sauce for seasoning of food - all has become a scarce commodity throughout the country. No one knows when it will go up again or improve."

Mr. Quang Thanh replied when asked why he still is staying in Vung Ang:

"My eleven year old daughter is with fever, abdominal pain and rash in bed and it is been so for more than two weeks. The doctors do not know what her lacks and I lack the money for treatment in the hospital. We go to Pleiku once my daughter feels better. My brother in law has a small construction company there and I can find work."

When asked what the Vietnamese government is doing to improve the situation in the region is tormenting a tired and barely perceptible smile on the face of Mr. Quang Thanh:

"Our government wants to make for us rice available so that we do not starve and that is the official help. Whether the money with which Formosa has ransomed themselves, will arrived here ever? I doubt it. Presumably, these funds will disappear in the pockets of these politicians who have allowed that Formosa contaminated our oceans and to destroyed our lives."

We say goodbye to Mr Quang Thanh as well thank you and we wish him and his family the best of luck. He calls for us: "Please let the world know what is happening here and how we must live."  We do not feel really good when we leaving the deserted town, overlooking the fog patches of Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Company, which rise into the sky on the horizon.

" first aid supplies arrive Vung Ang "The first aid reached Vung Ang on 20th of August 2016, so whole 4 months after the start of the environmental disaster in Central Vietnam. But these do not come from the Vietnamese government or from Formosa. A nonprofit organization has provided a supply of rice as well cooking-oil and other food products from donations. But there are hardly any residents in Vung Ang which benefit from the aid. The region is abandoned.

10.09. 2016: Hoang Anh for ITI-HOLIDAY

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