06/03/2019, 17.14
VIETNAM
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Vietnam worried by the environmental impact of Chinese companies

by Ngoc Linh

The seven of provinces of Vietnam that border China are seen as "the lungs of the country". Growing pollution is damaging both surface and underground water. The damage to the economy is estimated at between US$ 400 million and US$ 7 billion. China’s management of its upstream dams also raises fears.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – More and more ordinary Vietnamese and experts are worried about the environmental impact of Chinese companies and businesses operating along the China-Vietnam.

In recent years, Beijing has built infrastructure, set up manufacturing plants and opened agricultural plantations along the border. In Vietnam this is widely seen as the prelude of an invasion, based on China’s aggressive expansionism in other parts of the country, and in the South China Sea, which in Vietnam is known as the East Sea.

Seven Vietnamese provinces – Điện Biên, Lai Châu, Lào Cai, Hà Giang, Cao Bằng, Lng Sơn and Qung Ninh – are located on the border with China’s Yunnan and Guangxi provinces. The area is mountainous and viewed as "the lungs of the country". Local rivers and streams are an important source of water.

A World Bank report published last Thursday warns that pollution is becoming a serious problem, damaging both surface and underground waters. According to the international agency, environmental contamination can have serious repercussions for the country’s economy with losses estimated at between US$ 400 million and US$ 7 billion.

The members of the National Assembly also met last Thursday to discuss the implementation of the government’s plans for socio-economic development as well as its budget.

The deputy chief of the Second Military Region of the Vietnamese Army, in charge of defending northwestern Vietnam, spoke to lawmakers. His command covers an area that was invaded by the Chinese on 20 February 1979, and saw large swathes of Vietnamese territory occupied by Chinese troops.

"The time has come for us to pay attention to the problem of environmental pollution in the areas on the border with China,” Major General Sùng Thìn Cò told fellow National Assembly members.

The senior official also called on the government and provincial officials to send diplomatic notes to Chinese authorities asking them to compensate the Vietnamese people for environmental damage, such as the pollution of rivers, streams and ground.

Many in Vietnam fear China’s management of rivers and the dams it has built upstream to generate electricity. Chinese authorities have failed to uphold United Nations (UN) conventions on the use of transboundary watercourses, which protect downstream countries.

In recent years, the Chinese government has increased the flow of water during the rainy season, causing huge damages in Vietnam’s border provinces.

On 25 and 26 May, heavy rains hit the city of Móng Cái, Quảng Ninh province. The level of the Ka Long River rose dramatically. At 4.30pm on 26 May 2019, a 21-year-old man, Tran Viet, was swept away by flooding. Dozens of boats were sunk and many roads flooded.

According to Móng Cái residents, Chinese authorities opened the dams upstream, adding to problems caused by rainfall.

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