09/02/2016, 11.12
VIETNAM
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Vicar of Phú Yên: My parishioners are starving because of pollution

by Nguyen Nam

Fr. Đặng Hữu Nam describes the dramatic situation caused by the Formosa Plastic Group, which for months has dumped waste into the sea. The government announced that the waters are clean but "the boats remain ashore and nobody wants to buy fish." Civil society organizations want to denounce the company to an international court.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The 1200 parishioners of Phú Yên, in the diocese of Vinh, "lived off fishing, and now that the sea life is dead they have begun to die too. The waters are still polluted and boats remain ashore. If someone goes fishing, nobody buys the product ", denounces Fr. Đặng Hữu Nam, vicar of the parish of Phú Yên, describing the situation experienced by his faithful, affected by the ecological disaster that involving the central coast of Vietnam since  April.

In just  a few months 70 tons of fish died because of pollution caused by the Formosa Plastic Group, a Taiwanese steel company that unloaded their waste into the sea. During this time the authorities have not yet repaid the damaged workers nor helped families in need. The Church and civil society criticize the government in Hanoi, guilty of delaying the investigation, failing to protect the health of citizens and violently repressing peaceful protests.

A few days ago, the Vietnamese authorities announced that the waters are again clean, but the locals are not convinced and still will not eat the fish coming from risk areas. The Formosa Plastic Group was fined 550 million dollars, which it paid two days ago. The government has confirmed the right of the company to operate in the country, and Formosa Group has announced that it will not change production methods.

Yesterday 18 civil society organizations signed an open letter, appealing to those affected denouncing the company.

"The difficulties of the families are really tragic - continues Fr. Nam –  the fishermen were already poor before, but now even more so. They are in danger of bankruptcy because they have to pay back the bank loans with which they bought the fishing tools. Children are at risk of not going to school next year because their families cannot afford it ".

The government, tells the priest, "has not yet distributed the rice even for people affected by the pollution." The population also believes that the fine paid by the steel company is insufficient. Nguyễn Quang, head of the Civil Society Forum of Vietnam, says: "I believe that the Formosa Group has deliberately damaged the environment for its own economic interests. For this, each victim has the right to denounce it. We intend to denounce it at an international court, because the case should not be necessarily linked to the Vietnamese" legislation.

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