Thursday, June 30, 2016

The cause of mass fish deaths in Central Vietnam: what mistrust is being built?

In an international press conference hold by the Government Office of Vietnam on 30th June 2016, the government representatives announced that Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Co. Ltd (“FHS”)  running a 10.6 USD steel complex in North Central Vietnm admitted their charges in the mass fish deaths across the four central coastal provinces of Vietnam. 

Such an announcement was proven by a brief video shown at the conference, in which President of the FHS  said thatthe test runs as well as test results from the research and analysis of the inter-disciplinary inspection team under the direction of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment which includes Vietnamese and international scientists have all come to conclusion that incidents within the operation of our factory have caused the environmental incident that led to the recent mass deaths of fish off the coast of Viet Nam’s four central provinces.

Formosa Ha Tinh representatives offer apology for the toxic fish death incident in Vietnam. Source VNExpress

In an internal letter sent to its staff on the same day of 30th June 2016 which was massively reposted and quoted by local official newspapers, FHS president said that the incident was caused by their subcontractor’s fault and such investigation results were not expected by all of them however they would accept the investigation results concluded by the [Vietnamese] Government.

The massive fish deaths were finally concluded to be caused by the wastes including  phenol, cyanide. In a talk with Vnexpress, Vietnam Minister of Natural Resources and Environment recalled that FHS admitted an electricity incident causing power cut made a unit of Formosa Ha Tinh’s wastewater treatment system unworkable and then the wastewater was discharged into the sea without phenol being treated.

It took almost 3 months (since the disaster was first reported on 6 April  2016) for all the related parties to finally conclude and agree on the cause and who should be responsible for it. FHS had not officially claimed  any responsibilities until the final investigation results and evidence, which were conducted by local and international researchers and investigators, were shown by relevant authorities of Vietnam. To be noted, Taiwan activists organized some protests on 17th June 2016 to press Formosa Plastics over dead fish in Vietnam, while some Taiwanese lawmakers also raised their concerns over the incident.

Finally, FHS offered apology for the incident and pledged a compensation amount of US$ 500 million.

As a chronicle of the incident, under the circumstances of the fish deaths, the local tourism and fishery in some central coastal provinces were badly hurt because of the fears on possible contaminated water and poisoned seafood. Some leaders of the affected provinces took the brave action of swimming at sea and eating seafood cached from their local sea as a way to assure the mood of tourists and seafood consumers. When toxic causes of fish deaths are revealed, some people start to raise the question about the fine lines between a brave action with a risky action of some guiding stars.


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