Vietnam’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment has apologized on behalf of his office for the lack of information and action in combating the mass fish deaths in the country’s central provinces.
Minister Tran Hong Ha and a subsidiary of Taiwanese steel corporation Formosa participated in a working session on Thursday in hopes of solving some of the issues related to the problem.
Formosa’s subsidiary in Ha Tinh Province has been blamed by the public for the large number of fish deaths along the coast in central Vietnam.
Aside from local officials, scientists from the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, the Institute of Oceanography, and other institutions also partook in the session.
According to Minister Ha, the cause of the mass fish deaths in the provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Thua Thien-Hue, will be indentified soon.
Authorities have yet to find evidence linking wastewater released by nearby factories with the dead fish, Ha added.
During a brief meeting with the press following the working session, the minister admitted that authorities had been inexperienced and sluggish in dealing with the situation, despite their efforts.
“We have failed to live up to the expectations of the people. As a minister, I would like to take responsibility for such shortcomings,” he said.
According to Ha, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will appoint state agencies under its management, as well as the Ha Tinh environment department, to directly work with the Formosa subsidiary regarding its waste discharge system.
He emphasized that the Vietnamese law did not allow for the wastewater pipeline to be placed underwater.
“We will propose that their waste system be elevated above water in order to facilitate easy monitoring of their activities,” the official stated.
He also recommended that competent authorities raise the frequency of inspections on environmental statistics from factories amid sensitive times when natural disasters could potentially occur.
Formosa is requested to deal with any existing issues in its operations to avoid conflicts with the interests of Vietnamese citizens, Minister Ha concluded.
Tons of farm-raised and wild fish in the central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Thua Thien-Hue have died since early April, with authorities so far failing to identify the exact cause.
Formosa has been under fire by the public over allegations of industrial pollution brought about by its steel factory in Ha Tinh which may have been responsible for the mass deaths.