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Ten years of unresolved pollution dogs Vietnam’s industrial cluster

Monday, August 15, 2016, 18:18 GMT+7

Over 50 businesses at an industrial cluster in the Mekong Delta province of Long An have been discharging their untreated wastewater into the environment over the past decade with little interference and no firm resolution from local authorities.

The Hoang Gia Industrial Cluster, a 128-hectare zone housing 52 secondary businesses in Duc Hoa District, Long An, has been operating for over 10 years without a proper wastewater treatment system.

Along streets leading to the factories, sewage pipes deposit raw wastewater from processing facilities in plain view, releasing disturbing smells into the surrounding atmosphere.

During an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Nguyen Van Thuy, director of a company operating in the cluster, admitted that his wastewater treatment process does not conform to regulations, adding that an upgrade would cost around VND800 million (US$35,880).

Bui Thi Kim Hoa, director of Hoang Gia Long An, the primary investor of the industrial cluster, affirmed earlier this month that factories in the industrial zone are a significant cause of pollution in the surrounding environment.

About 1,000 cubic meters of wastewater are discharged by the factories on a daily basis, Hoa continued.

Of the 52 businesses, only four have installed decent treatment systems while the rest released their sewage directly into the environment, the director stated.

Speaking to Tuoi Tre on July 26, Huynh Thi Phep, the recently retired deputy director of the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment, affirmed that pollution from the industrial area had raised concern from local citizens and authorities.

“The situation has been addressed at many meetings held by competent authorities but no permanent solutions have been put forward,” Phep stated.

When will it be solved?

The Long An People’s Committee requested that Hoang Gia Long An establish a wastewater treatment plant for the entire cluster and has assisted the firm with VND1.5 billion ($67,275), though according to Nguyen Xuan Hong, deputy director of the provincial Department of Industry and Trade, construction of the facility only began in August 2014.

During an inspection in late July, Hong noticed only one employee was working at a plant with several processing tanks in use for raising fish.

Operation at the facility has been halted for two months, the employee stated, adding he was unclear of when it would be resumed.

According to Hoa, her company has spent VND8.7 billion ($390,195) constructing the wastewater treatment plant and the project is 95 percent complete.

The firm has also funded VND26 billion ($1.16 million) to build a system that will gather sewage from the factories, Hoa continued, adding that a lack of financial capacity has suspended the project's operation.

“We are selling the remaining 1.9 hectares of land at the industrial cluster. However, complicated paperwork has slowed down the process,” the director explained.

Replying to the question of when the problem will be solved, Pham Van Canh, vice-chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, said that local leaders had ordered a firm resolution to the situation.

A permanent measure is expected to be reached next week, Canh added.  

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