THE livelihoods of more than 200,000 people, including 41,000 fishermen, have been severely affected by the toxic pollution caused by a Taiwanese-owned steel complex, said the Vietnamese government.
The pollution from a unit of Formosa Plastics Group also decimated tourism in central provinces, the Thanh Nien newspaper on Friday quoted the government saying in a report to the National Assembly.
Formosa acknowledged earlier this month that it was responsible for the pollution and pledged to pay $500 million to clean it up and compensate affected people.
An estimated 115 tons of fish washed ashore along more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) of Vietnam’s central coast in April, sparking protests across the country.
The report says the government must learn from the incident and carry out proper oversight of the environment.
The pollution released by the steel complex is said to be an environmental disaster, killing not just commercial fish but also large whales and seagulls.
The Environmental Ministry formed a national council in early May to determine the reasons for the huge loss of marine life, bringing in about 100 scientists to help probe the phenomenon.
Last Friday, three Vietnamese journalists claimed they were beaten while attempting to investigate another waste scandal involving the same steel firm in the northern Phu Ninh District.
The three reporters, two men and one woman from Lao Dong newspaper and VTC14 television channel, allege that guards at the steel firm beat them and seized their equipment as they tried to document how the firm’s waste was treated and disposed of.
Formosa had reportedly moved 145 tons of “dangerous” waste from the Ha Tinh Province plant, over 500 kilometres away, to Phu Ninh. Reporters went to investigate after receiving complaints about the waste from residents in the area.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has asked for the compensation to be channeled to those affected by the disaster by the end of July.
“We fought to get convincing evidence and a foundation to arrive at a conclusion. Thus the support fund allocated for seamen for offshore fishing and environmental protection will be announced obviously,” he said.
However, Environment Minister Tran Hong Ha later said the amount of compensation “is too small” as it was based on direct material damages. The calculation, he said, did not take other bigger consequences into account, such as psychological damage to the fishermen whose businesses were completely put on hold, Tuoi Tre News reported.
Additional reporting from Associated Press