River polluter signs pacts to pay $6.1 mln in compensation

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Taiwanese river polluter Vedan Vietnam company Friday signed an agreement to pay nearly VND120 billion (US$6.1 million) in compensation to affected farmers in the southern province of Dong Nai.


Under the agreement, the monosodium glutamate maker will pay 50 percent of the compensation within seven days after the signing, and pay another 50 percent by January 14, 2011.


In return, all the 5,034 affected farmers have agreed to drop lawsuits against the company, according to Dong Nai Farmers' Association.


However, Vien Dong Ltd. Co., which runs a 28-hectare aquaculture farm in Long Phuoc Commune, has not accepted the compensation and will file a lawsuit against Vedan, said Nguyen Van Ngau, chairman of Long Thanh District Farmers' Association.


The company claimed over VND17 billion ($872,689) in compensation, while the calculation by the Institute of Natural Resources and Environment put the compensation payable to the company at VND900 million ($46,201) of nearly VND120 billion, Ngau said.


"So, the company didn't accept the compensation, although we have tried to convince them many times," he said.


Last month Vedan signed the same agreements with farmers in the southern province of Ba Ria Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh City for compensation worth VND53.6 billion (S$2.8 million) and VND45.7 billion (US$2.39 million) respectively.


The company was caught in 2008 discharging untreated effluents directly into the Thi Vai River through secret underground pipes. Government inspectors found that the company had been doing so for 14 years.


The discovery sparked a public outcry which rose even higher as the company declined to meet compensation requests made the affected farmers, making meager counter offers.


However, following a public boycott of its products that were pulled off supermarket shelves, Vedan caved in and agreed to pay the demanded compensation to farmers in Ba Ria Vung Tau and HCMC.


It also offered to pay Dong Nai farmers VND119.5 billion, but provincial authorities did not accept the offer until later.

The compensation sums were calculated by an agency authorized to do so by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

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