Vedan spites farmers again

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Taiwanese MSG maker Vedan is sticking to its guns, and sticking it to local farmers, by refusing to raise its compensation offer to families whose land it destroyed by secretly polluting a river for 14 years.

The Dong Nai Farmers Association had rejected the offer as too small last March, arguing that Vedan caused damages of VND1.6 trillion to local farmers.

But in a note sent to the southern province's People's Committee Thursday, Vedan said the amount was based on conclusions made at a meeting between Vedan and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's Vietnam Environment Administration (VEA) on January 15.

At the meeting, environmental experts from Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City announced that studies had found Vedan responsible for 77 percent of the pulition in the Thi Vai River, which runs through Dong Nai, Ho Chi Minh City and Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.

The rate is the average of the 89 percent estimated by the university's Institute of Environment and Natural Resources, which was authorized to calculate the figure by the environment ministry, and the 65 percent calculated by Vedan, the VEA said.

Vedan said environmental officials at the meeting had agreed that nearly 8,884 hectares of planting and breeding area were affected by the company's polution.

The MSG maker said the officials had agreed with Vedan that farmers in HCMC, Dong Nai and Ba Ria Vung Tau were thus owed around VND262 billion ($13.8 million) in total compensation.

Vedan said this meant that VND29 million would be given for each hectare polluted, translating into VND8.4 billion for Dong Nai farmers.

But Vedan raised the amount because it wanted to maintain a friendly relationship with local farmers and solve the matter quickly, the company said in the note.

It made the new offer on March 19, an increase from the VND7 billion initially offered to 5,064 farmers in Dong Nai last year.

The company's untreated wastewater killed aquaculture and and riverside crops from 1994 to 2008, when the illegal dumping was discovered by environment police.

Over the period, the firm had dumped 105 million liters of untreated wastewater into the river each month via a secret pipeline.

Vedan last year offered to pay VND25 billion in compensation to HCMC farmers, VND13 billion to farmers in Ba Ria-Vung Tau and VND7 billion to those in Dong Nai.

But farmers associations from all three localities rejected the offer as too low.

The HCMC Farmers Association has said 839 families engaged in aquaculture in the city suffered VND107 billion in losses at the hands of Vedan, while the Ba Ria Vung Tau Farmers Association reported over VND191 billion in losses caused to 1,134 families.

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