Vietnam: toxic waste dump to the world, officials warn

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Vietnam will become the dumping ground to the world if authorities fail to stop the illegal importation of toxic waste, officials have told Thanh Nien.

A raft of garbage schemes were busted up recently, mostly in major port cities of Hai Phong, Quang Ninh and Ho Chi Minh City.

Among the 592 unclaimed containers languishing in several of Hai Phong's ports, authorities recently discovered that at least 120 contain scrap metal, plastic, paper, used battery and electronic chips, all toxic to the environment.

In September 2008, ten containers holding nearly 216,800 tons of metal cinder were imported into the Tien Sa Port in Da Nang.

No firm has come forward to claim ownership of the shipment.

Pay to discharge garbage

Hoang Minh Dao, head of the Pollution Management Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said that current laws only allow for the importation of scrap metal that directly serves production purposes.

But many firms have imported garbage of all sorts, which Dao says has allowed rich countries to dump garbage inside the borders of developing countries.

He said the importers don't have to pay for the garbage but are paid by the exporters. Gold, silver, lead and mercury inside old electronic items are also a good sell, the official said.

"Such benefits have seduced a number of businessmen willing to play any card to worm their way ouf of the laws."

One trick is to import garbage under the auspices of importing "scrap metal" from some fake foreign company. These front companies ususally file for bankrupt the minute the garbage leaves their country to avoide responsibility, Dao said.

This August, the local construction and interior design company Thai Son was found importing 364.8 tons of dry batteries and used microchips from a PoLy Rich Holdings in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong company announced bankruptcy immediately after the shady deal went through.

Nguyen Duc Dang, a senior police officer based in Hai Phong, also said people in Vietnam "collude" with shady overseas businessmen to import garbage.

The importers always say their shipment is legal but when authorities find out later that it's not, the receiver named in the shipping manifest either says that the sender has named him by mistake or that the shipment was different from what they signed for, Dang said.

Meanwhile the foreign senders are all fake companies.

Tran Quang Hung, General Secretary of Vietnam's Electronic Industries Association, said the industrial waste can cause skin, eyes, and respiratory diseases-- as well as cancer--when introduced to the environment.

Since Vietnam has yet to create an authorized agency to collect industrial waste, Hung said his association proposed a ban on garbage importation of any kind a long time ago--but the situation persisted.

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