For the mass fish deaths/ environment disaster in Vietnam
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To: The United Nations, Headquarters;
The UN Asian Regional Office in Bangkok;
and related UN offices and Environmental organizations as mentioned in this letter,
Dear the Secretary General of the United Nations and Representatives of the related UN agencies,
Since early April there has been a very serious Environment disaster which has resulted in mass fish deaths in the central part of Vietnam. Hundreds of tonnes of fish, including rare species which live far offshore and in the deep, have been discovered on beaches along the country’s central coastal provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Tri, Quang Binh and Hue.
Initial evidence (which has yet to be validated) has been pointing to the steel factory located on the ocean shore at Vung-Ang, Ha-Tinh which is owned and operated by Formosa Plastics Cooperation, a Taiwanese Company (1, 2). It is believed that the sea water poison is caused by toxic chemicals from the untreated waste released directly into the sea by this factory. A large pipe of waste water on the sea bed connecting to this factory has been found, which is illegal . The issue is deadly serious because one diver who dived near the pipe already died (3) and 5 others hospitalized in emergency. Almost 200 people were poisoned and hospitalized after eating fish from the sea in the area (4).
So far, no responsibility is taken. Massive marine deaths continue, including evidence of large scale death of fish and shellfish found on the sea bed, people are ill and the sea damage continues to spread to Da Nang and Binh Thuan provinces further south where dead fish have also been found on the shore since the last week of April. The Vietnamese government has been too slow in responding and has not announced any emergency state to warn people about the danger of the incident and the risks of being in contact with the sea water. Even worse, the authorities in Ha Tinh province even announced that it is safe to eat fish and bath in the sea, which is absolutely irresponsible, as more people are hospitalized due to poison after eating fish from the sea. Those who came into contact with the sea water are under medical care for serious rashes and hives.
In addition to serious impacts on the environment, health of the local people and the sea ecosystems, the disaster has long term effects on livelihood of the local fishermen and tourism in the region. Scientists even worry that this environmental disaster might be compared to the Minamata disaster in 1960s in Japan where the sea water was contaminated with high mercury level released from a factory's waste to the sea, resulted in serious health effect for generations. Earlier in May, the tested sea water in Hue province found the Chromium level and other heavy chemicals higher than normal.
The disaster is not only problem for the Vietnamese people and the local sea, because the toxin in the sea water can also spread to the South East Asia and Pacific ocean and cause more damage, which could probably also pose high risk to other countries sharing the Pacific ocean.
This crisis needs urgent help, independent investigation and intervention.
Vietnamese people are worried about the effects on health and the environment, and feel helpless with the Vietnamese government who has offered a slow and very limited response (5). Tens of thousands of poor fishermen are now loosing their job and facing difficulty. Tourism, a key industry for many Vietnamese people along the coast, is suffering badly. Neither the government nor the Formosa company's leaders are taking responsibility, and as a result, little has been done to diagnose the problem, to mitigate the environmental damage or assist those affected. From record, this Formosa Plastic Cooperation is well-known and black-listed for environmental breaches, the waste dumping scandal in Cambodia by this company was an example (7, 8) and it has received Black Planet Award as causing a continuing sequence of social and ecological foul play throughout the world (9). Records from the Vietnamese customs office show that Formosa company has imported tonnes of dangerous chemicals into Vietnam.
We, the Vietnamese people including scientists, lawyers, environment and health professionals, social activists, engineers, University professors and students and others, would like to call for the United Nations and International organizations to urgently support to form an International Independent Investigation group of scientists to investigate the case. In addition to an independent investigation, we need the UN and international communities' support to put pressure on the Vietnamese Government and Formosa company (if indeed it is proven that they bear responsibility); to help contain the damage, and to assist in learning lessons to reduce the risk of a repeat incident. Killing the environment as such is serious criminal, those found to be responsible through independent investigation, should be held to account through appropriate judicial procedures.
The sea along Vietnam is the shared environment with the South East Asian region, the risk of mass contamination is high. The Vietnamese government needs to take responsibility in protecting the environment and must give information transparency to the public and respond appropriately to the disaster, in order to minimize damages and risks to local people's health, well-being and livelihood. We would like to call for the UN agencies and International organizations to put pressure on the Vietnamese government to be more responsible for environmental issues.
Due to lack of Government's appropriate actions to respond to the disaster consequences and mitigate the spread of poisoned sea water, on Sunday the 1st of May, a protest took place by thousands of people in all 3 regions of Vietnam against this environmental disaster, calling for Formosa company to be responsible or closing down, and for the Vietnamese government to take actions (even though protests and rallies are something very rare in Vietnam as ruled by a communist party) (10,11).
However the second protest on the 8th of May was suppressed seriously, hundreds of peaceful protesters were arrested and seriously beaten, dozens of them were detained (12,13,14), which seriously violated human rights and freedom of expression as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in South East Asia regional office has concerned (15). We also need the UNHCR to concern more about this human rights issue and help Vietnamese people to raise our voice. Vietnamese people are absolutely disappointed and angry about the suppression and having no trust in the government. So far, no further action is taken by the government to respond effectively to the disaster. Scientists suspect that the water might be contaminated with heavy chemicals which are dangerous for humans health and killing sea ecosystems. There is a so-called “investigation” carried out by the government officials, however, found “no link” with such factory's toxic chemicals, which people absolutely consider very bias. Therefore, a genuine investigation carried out by an international independent group of scientists is very much needed.
We urgently need the UN and related international environmental organizations' support and collaboration to investigate the cause of the sea poison which cause the mass fish deaths and still spreading, and urgently require the factory to stop discharging chemicals into the sea, as fish are still dying. We need to save the Pacific Ocean, the sea environment and the planet!.
We would be pleased to offer a conversation or discussion if you find it helpful, or if you can have some suggestions on how we can collaborate with you to contribute to addressing the issue. Please kindly send us email to the following contacts, we would be pleased to provide further information if needed.
We look forward to hearing from you. Thank you very much!
Eco-business pointing out Formosa must be responsible for the incident:
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