Vietnam’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) has decided to carry out an interdisciplinary inspection of a Chinese paper manufacturing plant on the bank of the Hau river in the southern province of Hau Giang
following local media reports on possible environmental damage to the river.
The check will begin on July 1 at Lee&Man Vietnam Paper Manufacturing Company, whose paper project, Minister Tran Hong Ha reckons, can potentially put the environment in danger if the investor fails to strictly comply with regulations on environmental protection, the ministry said on its website on June 26.
The inspection has been announced after the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) sent a dispatch to the government saying that the plant could discharge up to 28,500 tons of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) per year into the Hau river, a vital source of water for locals’ daily use and fish farming, once the mill comes into full operation in August.
The inspectors will look into the firm’s environmental impact assessment, discharge permission, processed wastewater quality, wastewater treatment technology.
The team will also check Lee&Man’s obedience to regulations in the environmental impact assessment and discharge permission as well as schemes to tackle environmental incidents and automatic monitoring systems.
The minister asked the inspection team to recommend whether to allow the plant to begin trial runs and actions that Lee&Man must implement before the trial run.
Bui Van Quang, a fish breeder on the Hau river, told the Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper that the lives of locals will be heavily affected if the mill discharges chemicals into the river since they rely on the river for daily water use and livelihood.
Fishermen catch fish in Hau Giang. (Photo: Duy Khuong/Vietnam News Agency)
If the water is polluted, local residents will have no other choices but move to other places, Quang added.
Le Anh Tuan, vice director of the Climate Change Institute under the University of Can Tho, told Saigon Times Online that a paper mill usually discharges large quantities of toxins into the environment.
He raised concerns that the project’s environmental assessment was made in 2008, meaning that it is out of date.
The mill is located in an area that water flows weakly and is adjacent to fish farms, thus concerns are grounded. If an incident occurs, the Hau river will be severely polluted, he noted.
Chung Wai Fu, CEO of Lee&Man Vietnam Paper Manufacturing Company, has said in a press meeting affirmed that the waste water treatment system of the plant is equipped with modern technologies from Sweden and Germany.
Le Anh Tuan, however, questioned that the firm should publicize the technologies and the environmental assessment report so that independent experts can evaluate them.
Lee&Man’s project comes amid an environment crisis in the country’s coastal region where tons of fish and seafood species have washed out ashore. The public has pointed the finger of blame to a steel mill invested by Taiwan’s Formosa
Plastics Group but the government has not unveiled the cause of the massive fish deaths as it needs independent commentaries.
The controversial paper mill project is wholly invested by Hong Kong-listed Lee&Man Paper Manufacturing Company with an investment of $1.2 billion. It includes a paper packing plant with an annual capacity of 420,000 tons and a bleached pulp mill with a capacity of 330,000 tons per year, covering an area of 82 hectares.
Its hard paper packing plant has been constructed and is scheduled to come into operation in August while the construction of its pulp mill will start next year.