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Binh Thuan Power Plant Wants to Dump 1.5m Tons of Waste Into the Sea

Officials from the Binh Thuan Environmental Department are pushing back after a power plant in the southern province recently proposed dumping 1.5 million tons of waste into the sea.

According to department head Ho Lam, the waste primarily consists of mud, soil and sand from the harbor of Tuy Phong District’s Vinh Tan Power Company, reports VnExpress. Because Tuy Phong doesn’t have available land to process such a large volume of waste, the firm is requesting permission to discharge it into the sea.

While the 30-hectare dumping area would be 5.5 kilometers away from the mainland, environmental department officers argue its proximity to Vietnam’s Hon Cau Marine Protected Area (MPA) could pose a serious threat to marine life in the area. According to Zing, the Hon Cau MPA covers 12,500 hectares

According to Huynh Quang Huy, head of the Binh Thuan Fisheries Department, Vinh Tan’s waste discharge could wipe out coral reefs and marine life in the area, however his department has been kept in the dark on this matter thus far.

“We should have received official information about the plan as it will affect the Hon Cau MPA directly, but to date, no information has reached us,” Huy told Phap Luatearlier this month.

The government agency is currently requesting feedback from Vietnam’s Administration of Seas and Islands amid concerns over environmental safety. Should the deposit of the waste be greenlit, it will also affect a freight shipping route between Quang Binh and Binh Thuan, the news outlet reports.

According to the company’s proposal to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Zing reports, the waste originates from the construction of the Vinh Tan Power Center, which overlaps with 1,000 hectares of Hon Cau.

Therefore, last September, the Binh Thuan People’s Committee requested that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development reduce Hon Cau’s total area in order to accommodate the power facility’s construction. Currently there is no word on whether the proposal has been approved or not.

Earlier in October, high-level government officials also expressed concerns over Vinh Tan, according to Thanh Nien. Nguyen Ngoc Hai, chairman of the Binh Thuan People’s Committee, told the news channel that the level of discharges from wastewater coolers and coal poses unavoidable environmental risks.

During a working session in September, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Vo Tuan Nhan shared that every power plant must undergo an environmental impact assessment, however the Vinh Tan Power Center has never conducted one. As a result, the ministry confirmed that it will collaborate with Binh Thuan to carry out a full assessment of the facility.

Unfortunately, the ruckus surrounding Vinh Tan’s waste issues will not be a one-time incident, if Vietnam’s hunger for power is any indication. According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, VnExpress reports, at the moment the country is operating 20 coal power plants which discharge a total of 15.7 million tons of ash annually. These figures will increase to 43 and 29 million, respectively, by 2022.

In the face of worsening pollution, Vietnam needs to step up both its waste management and law enforcement. As of now, the ash from the nation’s slew of plants is mostly buried at sites near the facilities or dumped into landfills. These treatments pose harmful threats to both the local environment and the well-being of local residents.

[Photo via EVNPECC2]

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