Polluters firmly in the firing line

Hai Duong province authorities have sent an ultimatum to 66 polluting enterprises, of which three are foreign-backed.

Vu Dinh Hien, head of the province’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment’s environmental management division, said to December 31, 2010, enterprises damaging the environment would be shut down or heavily fined if they refused to meet local authorities’ environmental protection requirements.

The listing of these enterprises as polluters is based on the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s (MoNRE) Circular 07/2007/TT-BTNMT dated July 3, 2007.

Eleven of these polluters are exclusively blacklisted as having seriously damaged the environment, of which three are foreign-invested facilities.

The three foreign polluters are Taiwanese-backed Tung Kuang Company, which manufactures metal products, garment producer Tran An company and Chinese-backed Vietnam-China Company Ltd., which is engaged in cloth dying.

Of the foreign polluters, Tung Kuang might face criminal charges. Reportedly, discharging untreated waste water helped save VND80-100 million ($4,210-$5,263) for Tung Kuang during the global economic crisis, but badly affected hundreds of households. Evidence is being collected and legal procedures are being completed. Prosecution will take place this year.

“The remaining two foreign polluters have been warned of their polluting actions by local authorities, but have ignored the warning. For example, Vietnam-China Company had been warned directly for several times about discharging toxic water into the environment,” Hien said.

The polluters’ common violations include discharging toxic water and air with standards exceeding the permissible limits, failing to register dangerous waste sources, mismanaging toxic waste, failing to make new investment reports and environmental protection reports, failing to supervise environmental protection and not paying environmental protection fees.

“We are completing necessary legal procedures to blacklist such environmental violators. The procedures and blacklist will then be submitted to the provincial people’s committee, which will give the final verdict on the fate of the violators,” Hien told VIR.

“In case they refuse to abide by the province’s requirements, their fate will be similar to that of Tung Kuang’s [in facing criminal charges],” he added.

In July, 2009, the provincial people’s committee approved a blacklist of 51 enterprises causing serious environmental pollution in the northern province. These violators caused heavy air and water pollution and discharged untreated solid waste directly into the environment.

In related news, Binh Phuoc People’s Committee last week imposed a fine of VND150 million ($7,894) on Chon Thanh district-based South Korean-backed C&N Vina Company, which operates in industrial park infrastructure construction, for discharging untreated water into the environment.

The company’s violation was also required to be posted on the websites of the province’s People’s Committee, Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the MoNRE and three consecutive issues of MoNRE’s Natural Resources and Environment newspaper.

Also last week, Pangrim Neotex, a South Korean-backed textile firm in Phu Tho province's Viet Tri district, was caught discharging 2,100 - 2,200 cubic metres of toxic waste water per day into the Red river. Local environmental police said they would make further investigation into the case.

The $80 million company, which started operating in 1992, claimed its existing waste water treatment system installed in 1997 had downgraded. The firm was blacklisted as a serious environment polluter in 2008.

In 2009, Vietnamese environmental police detected 4,545 environmental violations, four times more than in 2008.

Nguyen Thanh (vir.com.vn)