Vietnam mulls scrapping part of $1.2 bln paper mill over environmental concerns

Thanh Nien News

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The construction site of Lee & Man paper mill complex in the southern province of Hau Giang. Photo: Gia Bach The construction site of Lee & Man paper mill complex in the southern province of Hau Giang. Photo: Gia Bach


The Ministry of Industry and Trade has proposed that the government scrap a Hong Kong-invested pulp plant in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang, citing potential threats to the environment, local media has reported.
Part of a US$1.2-billion paper mill complex developed by Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing Limited, the troubled plant has recently come under suspicion of harming the environment, even though it will not enter a test run until 2018.
Local residents and seafood companies have protested the plant, saying that it will pollute the Hau River in the lower reaches of the Mekong Delta River and kill fish, when it goes into operation with an annual output of 330,000 tons.
The opposition has prompted the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to launch an inspection into the mill early this month. However, the inspection's findings are yet to be released.
Meanwhile, in its proposal to the government, the Ministry of Industry and Trade said that since the southwestern region's terrain is low and has lots of rivers, it is not suitable for growing trees specific for pulp production, news website Saigon Times Online reported on Friday.
Moreover, the ministry said pulp production uses many chemical substances, which will pose a great threat to the environment.
Previously, the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) said in a petition for closing down the plant that while pulp production discharges sodium hydroxide, one of the most dangerous substances, Lee & Man has not developed a decent waste treatment system.
The Lee & Man complex also houses a cardboard mill with an output of 420,000 tons a year, but it is apparently safe for now.
The ministry was quoted as saying that cardboard production uses less chemical substances and poses less risks to the environment. As long as the mill meets all requirements for environmental safety, it is eligible to go into operation, it said.
The mill is scheduled for having a test run this August.

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