The recent large-scale fish mortality event in Vietnam’s central region was a serious environmental disaster. The poisoned seafood has affected the livelihood and health of hundreds of Vietnamese, while the marine ecosystem, fish populations and local biodiversity has also been severely affected. Authorities have not yet concluded as to the cause of this disaster, however based on initial evidence, concerns that businesses’ activities are causing pollution seem well founded.

CHANGE hopes that the government and authorities will soon come to a conclusion as to the cause of the disaster. We also hope for a comprehensive assessment of the impact it has had on the ecological system in order to implement an effective clean-up strategy. The process requires close cooperation with independent international scientific organizations. The government also needs to promptly publish a damage assessment and provide emergency assistance to fishermen and other whose livelihoods have been affected. Recommendations on the safety of the marine environment and seafood should be based on scientific analysis, not just a propagation to calm the public.

CHANGE urges the government of Vietnam to use this event to review its environmental laws and industrial regulations, and to make changes to ensure they meet international standards. The government should continue to complete its mechanism to ensure the implementation of these standards and regulations, and conduct strict inspections at all active major factories and industrial zones in Vietnam. Particular focus should be put on those areas causing pollution such as thermal power, metallurgy and plastics and in areas with fragile ecosystems and vulnerable residential areas.

The government needs to ensure the participation of the community in transparent environmental assessments and public information announcements. CHANGE also urge business to adhere strictly to environmental laws and regulations, actively and honestly report on environmental impacts in the event of an accident, and facilitate the monitoring of production and discharge activities in order to protect the environment and the rights of the local community where the businesses are operating.

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When environmental disasters strike, the aftermath is usually devastating, costly and difficult to manage. Therefore CHANGE calls on the government to review business development strategies and foreign investment policies in order to ensure sustainable economic development for Vietnam. CHANGE calls for care and scrutiny from the government and local authorities in approving and licensing industrial development projects. All projects should be subject to transparent and open environmental impact assessments carried out by independent parties to minimize the risks of similar disasters, which affect human health and the national environment.

The mass fish mortality disaster in central Vietnam has prompted strong reaction from the public, highlighting the deep concern that many have for the health of the Vietnamese people and the environment. As an organization working in the field of environmental protection and sustainable development, CHANGE commits to participating and cooperating with authorities on all aspects of the disaster. We also call for simultaneous participation of scientific organizations and NGOs, the media, civil organizations and the community in assisting the government to bring a solution to this event. Finally we call for nationally co-ordinated efforts to monitor and execute laws and environmental standards in socio-economic activities in general, for a developed and sustainable future for Vietnam.

Center of Hands-on Actions and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE)

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