Vietnamese farmers to take river polluter Vedan to court

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Farmers in the southern province of Ba Ria Vung Tau will appear in court to claim compensation for damages caused by Vedan Vietnam's river pollution, a local official said Monday.


Le Tuan Quoc, director of the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said local farmers had previously rejected the Taiwanese-owned company's offer to "support" them with VND10 billion (US$527,287).


The monosodium glutamate (MSG) maker, which in 2008 was found to have been dumping untreated wastewater into the Thi Vai River for 14 years, made the offer after Ba Ria Vung Tau People's Committee demanded over VND53 billion ($2.7 million) in compensation.


Ho Chi Minh City's Farmers Association Chairman Nguyen Van Phung, meanwhile, said they will propose a meeting with Vedan to reach an agreement over the compensation.


"If Vedan doesn't agree to meet us, or if they keep trying to lessen the amount of compensation due, or refuse to pay, we'll report to the city's People's Committee and sue the company," Phung said.


On Monday, Vedan Vietnam's representative, lawyer Hoang Nhu Vinh, said the company had turned down the demand for compensation worth VND45.7 billion ($2.4 million) from affected farmers in Ho Chi Minh City.


Vinh said there were no grounds to calculate damages in the affected area of 2,123 hectares, because at a meeting with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) in Hanoi last December, it was estimated that the pollution damaged 83 hectares, worth VND1.7 billion ($89,356), only.


Also on Monday, MNRE reported Vedan's case to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, proposing that he order Dong Nai province to calculate the damages as well as the compensation due and to consult affected farmers before making a final decision.


The proposal was made after Tran Van Quang, vice chairman of Dong Nai Province's Farmers' Association said local affected farmers had accepted Vedan's offer to pay them VND15 billion ($788,436) as support.


Farmers don't want to bring the case to court, Quang said, stressing, however, that they are still awaiting orders from related agencies.


Dong Nai's farmers had previously asked for VND1.6 trillion ($84.4 million) in compensation, but later had to re-calculate damages in accordance with a study by Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam National University's Institute of Environment and Natural Resources, authorized by MNRE, Quang said.


They were yet to come to a conclusion on the damages, according to Quang.


Vedan's lawyer, Vinh, said they will file a written objection to the MNRE's report, as it uses administrative measures to deal with civic affairs.

The ministry proposed that the government order Dong Nai to be careful with its statement and sign a written agreement when working with the company.

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