The marine environmental incident in the central region caused by Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Co. Ltd was the largest of its kind in Vietnam thus far. A vast area of the sea had been found polluted, sparking enormous socio-economic and environmental consequences in both short and long terms.
The incident has triggered direct, severe effects on fishing activities, aquaculture, seafood processing, salt making, fisheries logistics, and tourism as well as social disturbances, and concerns in a proportion of population.
As so, functional agencies, scientists and environmental experts had worked hard and came to a conclusion that the culprit of the incident was Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Co. Ltd as it discharged untreated waste into the sea. The company’s representative admitted the wrongdoing and committed a compensation of US$500 million (equivalent to VND11 trillion) to fix the consequences. The company pledged to take measures to improve its hazardous waste treatment system to prevent similar incidents.
As the case learnt, the Party, the Government, sectors and agencies at all levels set recovering the environment and ensuring people’s benefit as a top goal and have promptly joined hands to enable the affected residents to quickly resume their normal life and business activities.
Not only doing do, the Party, the Government and localities showed their seriousness in steering work and admitted their responsibility before the people while taking measures to punish individuals and organizations involved in the incident. The Commission for Inspection of the Party Central Committee met and concluded that the Party Delegation to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment working during the period leading to the incident made severe mistakes and deserved disciplines. Meanwhile, many managerial officials of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the General Environment Department, Ha Tinh province, and the Vung Ang Economic Zone Management Board relating to the incident have been disciplined.
Under the close supervision of Vietnamese authorities and local residents, Formosa has fulfilled up to 96 percent of its work committed to the Vietnamese Government and people, assessed Vietnamese relevant agencies and scientists.
Meanwhile, the four affected localities received VND3.7 trillion out of the VND4.7 trillion advanced for compensation and are likely to get the rest of the compensation by the end of June, 2017.
In late 2016, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment officially announced that the sea in the central region was safe. The level of pollutants from the incident in the sea environment has reduced significantly.
In particular, fishermen said they have recently caught many sardines and blue fish in the area, seeing it as a good omen for their offshore fishing in the waters and their livelihoods as well.
Local statistics tell that 70-80% of under 90 CV boats and 85-90 percent of above 90 CV vessels have launched fishing trips, bringing ashore over 4,500 tonnes of seafood so far this year, which were consumed stably. In addition to that, 2,777 hectares of brackish water have been used for farming fish since late 2016, fulfilling the yearly plan. In the meantime, local residents are preparing facilities for this year’s breeding season.
While efforts are being made to recover the affected marine environment and help affected people to stabilize their life and production, it is regrettable that several extremists have in recent days made corrupt the Party and State policies on belief and religious freedom and colluded with overseas hostile forces to incite religious followers to public disturbances. They even attacked on-duty officers, causing social and traffic chaos and badly affecting political security and social safety and order in the central region.
Those extremists intentionally used the Formosa incident as a pretext to damage the relations between the local administration and religious followers in particular and local residents in general in Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces and undermine the people’s unity in the areas. They have, through several religious figures, provoked gullible people and religious followers into taking actions and wrongful viewpoints against the administration.
It can be said that through such bad activities, these individuals intentionally turned an environmental issue into a political issue. They, in the name of the protector of the marine environment, resorted to sabotage the Party and State, undermine the national unity bloc and the unity between religious followers and non-religious people, and shatter the peaceful environment in the central region.
The marine environmental incident in the central region is a big lesson for the country during its socio-economic development and also an expensive experience in dealing with environmental “hotspots”. It features a long-time contradiction between growing the economy fast and protecting the environment.
A new mindset in development for the long term has therefore been adopted by the Party and State and has been repeated many times by the Prime Minister. “Don’t trade our environment for economic growth and people’s peaceful life.”
People should be vigilant and lucid for the community and the homeland. More than ever, residents in the central region, regardless of religious followers and non-religious people, should be determined to work together and with the administration to strengthen their unity and the sense of community and neighborliness.
In particular, they should be resolute to fight against provocative acts, damage revolutionary attainments gained by our elders, and undermine the stability of the political system and the people’s peaceful life.