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Investigation on mass fish deaths in Vung Ang, Vietnam

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On April 6 a massive amount of fish was found dead at Vung Ang, Ha Tinh, the Central Coast of Vietnam. Around the same time (Mar 29 – Apr 4), many diver workers in the regions reported abnormally opaque water, yellowish skin after diving, feeling dizzy, chest pain, and fatigue. One of them died. [1]

Local divers have noticed giant pipes built two years ago running underwater and reported their active discharge in April 2016. These pipes are connected to Hung Nghiep Formosa, the steelmaker local unit of Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) in Vung Ang Economic Zone[2]. Other events pointing at them being the prime suspect, such as the import of 297 tons of anti-rust chemicals within 4 months of this year. In a press conference, they blandly said that the people had to choose between fish and steel mill.[3]

Based on the evidence collected so far, scientists abroad have pointed out the high probability of heavy metals and cyanide in causing the mass deaths and warned people against consuming the dead fish, as well as taking extra caution on their drinking water [4]. Heavy metals are notorious for their acute damage to human body, as well as prolonged damage for generations.

Despite this emergency, the authorities have been slow and irresponsible in their reaction. With deliberate ignorance of their responsibility, the authorities said that they are not allowed to inspect the Economic Zone with foreign investors. This statement is an intentional misconception between a ceded territory and an economic zone. There have been limited attempts from them to investigate the case, to warn the public about the hazardous effects of this incident. In contrast, they kept glossing over the issue, covering the corporation for their misconducts, and even telling the public to consume seafood normally. Recently in a seven-minute no-question-taken press conference, they again tried to divert the suspicion from Formosa, by proposing that red tide is the cause of massive fish death[5]. We know it is not.

FPG has a long history of global environmental offenses in Cambodia [6], Taiwan, United States[7]. Meanwhile, the cold-blooded reaction of the Vietnam government is an additional record of its violation of civil and human rights. This atrocity is not only speeding up the national disaster. It is causing a global one. Once the ocean is polluted, the Earth will never be the same again. The hazards will loom over the lives of many generations to come. We the people of Vietnam urgently ask for your help in investigating the case, coordinating much-needed actions to prevent a global disaster, and holding the corporation accountable for their destructions.

Trang Tran

[1] Tuoi Tre Online, “Một Thợ Lặn Chết Sau Khi Lặn Tại Cảng Sơn Dương - Formosa,” Tuổi Trẻ Online, accessed April 27, 2016, http://tuoitre.vn/tin/chinh-tri-xa-hoi/20160425/mot-tho-lan-chet-sau-khi-lan-tai-cang-son-duong-formosa/1090522.html
[2] Người Đưa Tin, “Kình Ngư ‘mất Tích’ Sau Công Bố Bí Mật về ống Xả Thải Của Formosa,” accessed April 27, 2016, http://www.nguoiduatin.vn/kinh-ngu-mat-tich-sau-cong-bo-bi-mat-ve-ong-xa-thai-cua-formosa-a237658.html
[3] Tuoi Tre Online, “Đại Diện Formosa: ‘Muốn Bắt Cá, Bắt Tôm Hay Nhà Máy, Chọn đi!,’” Tuổi Trẻ Online, accessed April 27, 2016, http://tuoitre.vn/tin/chinh-tri-xa-hoi/20160425/dai-dien-formosa-muon-bat-ca-bat-tom-hay-nha-may-chon-di/1090468.html
[4] Trần Thị Thanh Thoả, Thiều Mai Lâm, and Trương Nguyện Thành, “Chuyện Bé Như Hạt Gạo Hay Thảm Họa Quốc Gia: Nguy Cơ Ngộ độc Kim Loại Nặng Ven Biển Miền Trung và Những Tác Hại Lâu Dài | Vietnam Journal of Science,” Vietnam Journal of Science, accessed April 27, 2016, http://www.vjsonline.org/news/chuy%E1%BB%87n-b%C3%A9-nh%C6%B0-h%E1%BA%A1t-g%E1%BA%A1o-hay-th%E1%BA%A3m-h%E1%BB%8Da-qu%E1%BB%91c-gia-nguy-c%C6%A1-ng%E1%BB%99-%C4%91%E1%BB%99c-kim-lo%E1%BA%A1i-n%E1%BA%B7ng-ven-bi%E1%BB%83n-mi%E1%BB%81n-trung
[5] “Vietnam Says No Proof Formosa Steel Plant Linked to Mass Fish Deaths,” Reuters, April 27, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-vietnam-formosa-plastics-environment-idUSKCN0XO18L
[6] Human Rights Watch Report, “Toxic Justice: Human Rights, Justice, and Toxic Waste in Cambodia,” May 1, 1999, https://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/cambotox/
[7] Axel Köhler-Schnura and Elke von der Beeck, “Ethics & Economics – Open Letter to the Formosa Plastics Group,” accessed April 27, 2016, https://www.ethecon.org/en/1101



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