Vietnam farmers get nothing after proving Vedan guilty: officials

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Vedan has paid less compensation to farmers whose land it destroyed than was spent researching its toxic crimes, said officials in Dong Nai Province.

Tran Van Quang, vice chairman of Dong Nai Farmers' Association, said the association is struggling to find out ways to inform farmers of such small payment.

The Taiwanese monosodium glutamate maker on April 20 officially confirmed it would pay Dong Nai farmers VND15 million (US$791) even though the associaiton had rejected the amount as too small.

Vedan said that the money included some "friendly" money because it claimed only to have caused VND8.4 billion in damages to the farmers, whose land was ruined and livelihoods cut off.

The provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment estimated that the pollution by Vedan caused damage worth more than VND1.6 trillion ($84.4 million) to 5,064 local families.

Quang said the department's figure was accurate as it came from inspections carried out in line with methods requested by the National Environmental Administration.

He said Vedan's calculation of about VND29 million for each damaged hectare was groundless and based on guessing.

Vedan's plant is located in Dong Nai but fish farms and riverside crops of many farmers in Ho Chi Minh City and Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province were also destroyed by its untreated wastewater, 105 million liters of which were dumped into the Thi Vai each month for fourteen years beginning in 1994.

A secret pipeline installed by Vedan to cary out the deed was discovered by environmental police in 2008.

An official from the Dong Nai Department of Natural Resources and Environment said farmers in those two localities would receive no more than VND10 billion both as their land had been damaged much less than Dong Nai's.

So the compensation to all farmers will be around VND20 billion, about the amount it cost this past year to collect information and evidence against Vedan, said the official who didn't want to be named.

That means the farmers would in sum receive nothing, even though Vedan had been proved guilty, he said.

Statistics by farmers' associations showed that Vedan's wastewater caused damages worth VND107 billion to 839 fish farmers in HCMC, and more than VND191 billion to 1,134 farmers in Ba Ria-Vung Tau, who only asked for VND53 billion in compensation.

Though the figures followed inspections similar to those carried out in Dong Nai, Vedan has sent notes saying the figures were groundless, according to Nguyen Van Thong, chairman of Ba Ria-Vung Tau Farmers' Association.

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