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Vietnamese Protest Mysterious Fish Kill


In Hanoi, Vietnamese protesters hold a banner reading "Fish need clean water. People need the truth" during a rally against mass fish deaths in Vietnam's central province on May 1, 2016. Protesters say they blame the waste discharge from Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa for the recent mass fish deaths along Vietnam's central coast. The government announced earlier that the fish could have been killed by toxic discharge produced by humans. However it said there is no proof that Formosa is linked to the fish deaths. (EPA/LUONG THAI LINH)

In Hanoi, Vietnamese protesters hold a banner reading "Fish need clean water. People need the truth" during a rally against mass fish deaths in Vietnam's central province on May 1, 2016. Protesters say they blame the waste discharge from Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa for the recent mass fish deaths along Vietnam's central coast. The government announced earlier that the fish could have been killed by toxic discharge produced by humans. However it said there is no proof that Formosa is linked to the fish deaths. (EPA/LUONG THAI LINH)

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Vietnam on Sunday against a company they accuse of killing large numbers of fish along the country’s central coast.

Some demonstrators criticized Vietnam’s government for reacting slowly to a major environmental disaster.

An official investigation has found no links between the fish kill and a steel plant operating along the coast. The factory belongs to a Taiwanese company, Formosa Plastics.

Public anger against the company was evident at the recent demonstration in Hanoi.

Protesters carried signs reading, “Formosa destroying the environment is a crime” and “Who poisoned the central region’s waters?” Others signs said, “Formosa out of Vietnam!” and criticized Vietnamese officials for failing to take action.

Demonstrations are rare in Vietnam. Police are usually quick to suppress them. Last weekend, police officers cleared traffic to let demonstrators march near a big lake in the center of Hanoi.

Huge numbers of dead fish have appeared at fish farms and along the central coast since April 6. The dead fish include rare species that live in deep water, far from land.

The fish kill has affected 200 kilometers of coastland in four provinces, with no known cause.

At first, the environmental disaster was thought to have resulted from industrial waste. Some Vietnamese and environmental activists believe it came from the huge steel plant.

Last week, Vietnamese officials said they failed to find evidence linking the fish kill to the factory.

Tran Hong Ha, the top environmental official, apologized for the government’s reaction to the large fish kill. He demanded that the Taiwanese company dig up a waste pipe at the steel project so the government can study the waste.

At first, the government said the cause of the fish kill could be a “red tide.” Red tides happen naturally when algae become so numerous that they discolor coastal waters. The organisms remove oxygen from the water. They can also release toxic substances that may sicken animals and human beings.

The government also said that the fish kill could have resulted from chemicals released by humans.

A comment by a Formosa official helped to fuel public anger in Vietnam. The official reportedly said that the country had to choose between catching fish and shrimp, and building a modern steel industry.

Reports on Facebook say several hundred protesters marched in Ho Chi Minh City. However, state-controlled media have yet to report on any of the demonstrations.

Social media and witnesses said protests also took place in central Vietnam last Friday. They said fishermen threw fish on a road after failing to sell their catch. The Reuters news service could not confirm the incident.

On Saturday, the government ordered the trade and agriculture ministries to help buy seafood caught during deep-sea fishing.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

The Reuter news service reported on this story. George Grow adapted this report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

speciesn. a particular group of things that belong together or have some shared quality

toxinn. a poisonous substance and especially one that is produced by a living thing

red tiden. a discoloration of seawater caused by a bloom of toxic red organisms

algaen. simple plants that have no leaves or stems and that grow in or near water

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