2016 Vietnam marine life disaster
Demonstrations and protests.
|Date||6 April – present|
|Location||Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên–Huế provinces, Vietnam|
|Cause||Formosa Ha Tinh Steel|
Fish carcasses were reported to have washed up on the beaches of Hà Tĩnh province from at least 6 April 2016. Later, a large number of dead fish were found on the coast of Hà Tĩnh and three other provinces (Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên–Huế) until 18 April 2016. Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, a steel plant built by the Taiwanese corporation Formosa Plastics, discharged toxic industrial waste illegally into the ocean through drainage pipes. After denying responsibility for months, Formosa accepted responsibility for the fish deaths on June 30, 2016.
The massive marine life destruction led to a number of protests by Vietnamese citizens in some cities on 1 May 2016, calling for a cleaner environment and demanding transparency in the investigation process.
The Formosa steel plant is suspected to be the source of the toxic chemical waste. The company admitted that there was a sewage pipe connecting the plant and the ocean and it was reported that several days before the incident, 300 tonnes (300 long tons; 330 short tons) of chemicals were imported by Formosa in order to clean the pipe. Formosa was later ordered by Vietnamese authorities to remove those sewage pipes. However, the Vietnamese government denied that the Formosa steel plant was linked to the disaster.
Vietnamese scientists largely agreed that the source of toxins was from the Vũng Áng Economic Zone, in which the Formosa steel plant was located; meanwhile, the Vietnamese government was accused of concealing the findings from the public.
In a press conference held on 27 April, Võ Tuấn Nhân, the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, claimed that the two main suspects of the marine life destruction were red tide and toxins generated by people. However, the red tide explanation was quickly rejected by the Vietnamese Fisheries Society.
At 5:00 PM on June 30, 2016, the Government Office held a press conference to announce the causes and perpetrators of this particularly serious environmental disaster. Accordingly, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and other relevant units have checked and discovered violations regarding Formosa discharging toxic waste into the sea waste water containing toxins exceeding the permitted level. Based on the ground-level investigation, "the Vietnamese authorities along with the participation of scientists had concluded that Formosa was responsible for this environment pollution that led to marine life disaster."
Effects and responses
By 29 April, approximately 80 tonnes (79 long tons; 88 short tons) of fish carcasses had been washed up to the shores of four central provinces of Vietnam from Hà Tĩnh to Thừa Thiên–Huế. On 6 May, the amount of collected fish carcasses surpassed 100 tonnes (98 long tons; 110 short tons).
The disaster disrupted the livelihood of fishermen in four provinces in the central coast of Vietnam. On 4 May 2016, Vietnamese government had announced a ban of processing and selling seafood caught within 20 nautical miles of central Vietnam provinces, just one day after the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment had claimed that the seafood in the region met safety standards.
According to the local government of Quảng Bình, the fishermen of this province had already lost $5.2 million; in addition, the disaster also heavily impacted the tourism industry as nearly 30% tourists canceled their planned tours to the affected provinces for the national holiday season starting on 30 April.
On 5 March 2017, protesters gathered on Nguyễn Du Street and in front of the Ho Chi Minh City post office. Police tried to disperse the protesters. Overseas Vietnamese also joined in protest around the world, demanding greater action about Formosa and protesting police abuse of protesters.
The Vietnamese government has cracked down on peaceful protests and civic action from affected fishermen, including arresting Nguyễn Văn Hoá, a citizen journalist who covered the Formosa protests. He was charged for "conducting propaganda against the state" under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code and sentenced to seven years prison. Lê Đình Lượng, another environmental activist who campaigned for just compensation for affected fishermen was arrested for "activities attempting to overthrow the state" in July 2017.
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