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Delta region worries over paper mill pollution

HAU GIANG Some residents are worried about the eventual discharge from two mills under construction for Lee&Man Viet Nam Paper and Lee&Man Viet Nam Wood Pulp in this southern province.

The worry stems from plans to dump waste water into the Hau River, where fish farming is a source of income. Le Hong Thanh of Can Tho City’s Cai Van District, on the Hau River about 10km downstream from the proposed mills, said media reports about the building of the mills had him worried.

"I listened to a TV programme and I’m concerned that if the mills don’t have good waste treatment systems, my residential district will be affected," he said.

The local water supply company draws water from the Hau River and treats it before distributing it to Thanh and his neighbours.

"The quality of water right now is fine," he said. "But if the mills discharge untreated waste water into the river, it might not be as safe as it is now."

Fish farming was not as prolific as about 10 years ago but some farmers still raise fish downstream.

"Any polluted water would affect them as well," cautioned Thanh.

But Can Tho People’s Committee deputy chairman Nguyen Van Thang has assured scientists, consultants and the media that the licences for the mills were issued only after consultation with the relevant ministries.

"In the documents the company filed for the licences, it proposed environmental protection," he said.

The investor also pledged to use environment-friendly production methods. The same pledge had been made for the 80 per cent of imported material needed for production.

Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry representative Nguyen Cong Dan warned that an enduring environmental strategy with the focus on the treatment of waste water would be needed. The Aquaculture Department official said the projects should comply with Science and Technology Ministry requirements. Otherwise discharged biological and chemical substances would quickly pollute the surrounding environment.

Some scientists at the meeting argued that the proposed mills would not damage the environment because the waste would be treated or recycled before it was discharged into rivers.

Environmental Technology Centre deputy director Dr Pham Manh Tai said that although an Environmental Impact Assessment was not required for the mills, the investor had guaranteed to protect the environment.

"Hau Giang has followed the required processes – for issuing the investment licences," he said adding that the province had also taken environment protection laws into consideration.

Source: Viet Nam News