Fish breeders sue seafood firms over pollution claims

May 12, 2016 6:15 am 

BÀ RỊA-VŨNG TÀU, May 11 — Thirty-three caged-fish breeding farmers have sued over a dozen seafood enterprises, claiming that wastewater discharged into Chà Và River in the southern province of Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu resulted in the loss of their fish.

The farmers on Monday signed a lawsuit with 11 legal firms against 14 seafood processing businesses, claiming that the businesses discharged polluted water, causing mass fish deaths last September.

Last year’s fish die-off pushed several farmers into bankruptcy, while many businesses have denied the consequences of wastewater discharge and refused to compensate farmers.

After the incident, the provincial People’s Committee set up a special working group including experts from the Department of Natural Resource and Environment to investigate the reason for the mass fish deaths.

The experts said the fish died due to wastewater discharged by 14 seafood processing companies.

However, the companies refuted these results and refused to pay compensation to the farmers.

The companies said they had installed wastewater treatment systems and that it was impossible to discharge wastewater into the river.

Most of the companies agreed to give farmers some financial aid, but not compensation.

Nguyễn Thanh Tịnh, deputy chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, said “the companies have to pay compensation, but not financial assistance”.

“If the companies do not agree to compensate, authorities will help the farmers complete the filings for a lawsuit,” he added.

Hoàng Long Hà, chief of Hoàng Hà Firm, said the lawsuit was complicated, but the evidence was scientific and clear.

“Authority agencies have collected evidence scientifically and legally to provide an argument in court,” said Hà.

Lawyer Trương Thị Thanh Thủy said that the discharge of wastewater into the river by the 14 enterprises must be handled by law.

Under the Civil Code, any individual or entity that causes environmental pollution and damage must pay compensation, she said.

Many other lawyers expressed their anger over the firms’ refusal to pay, despite the serious financial losses their actions caused farmers.

Lê Minh Thông, president of the Farmers’ Association in Long Sơn Commune, said, “I believe the fish breeders will win the lawsuit. The right belongs to them.”

Farmer Nguyễn Văn An, 69, said, “We believe we will win because we have all the legal evidence. We must gain equality and rights.”

The farmers are requesting VNĐ18.1 billion (USD 823,000) in compensation.

In September, fish processing plants were fined for polluting Chà Và River in Tân Thanh District’s Tân Hải Commune.

Wastewater pollution caused the mass deaths of fish in local breeding farms.

The farmers carried hundreds of dead fish to the local People’s Committee chairman, who is handling the case.

The farmers’ losses were expected to reach VNĐ5 billion (USD 227,000), according to statistics released by the department. (PNA/VNS)



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