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Salt plant damages environment

HCM CITY, Dec. 28 — About 4,300 people of 897 households living in central Ninh Thuan Province's Phuoc Minh Village have been affected by salt-water intrusion caused by the Quan The salt-making center.

The local media has reported that land in Phuoc Minh Village had become too saline because of the salt-making project located in the province.

The Quan The industrial salt and export economic zone project has been carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's National Salt Corporation since 2000.

The project was later transferred to Ha Long Company Ltd in 2004 and was expanded to cover 2,500ha.

According to the Phuoc Hai Village People's Committee, the project, the largest of its kind in the country, aimed to ensure salt security for the country, create more jobs, and increase income for residents.

But through the 11 years of its operation, it has seriously affected the lives of many people living in the province.

Phuoc Minh Village includes four hamlets, Quan The 1, 2, 3 and Lac Tien, with 897 households and 4,300 residents. Nearly 2,000 people are in the working age.

The total land area of the village is nearly 8,000 hectares, of which agricultural land accounts for 2,500ha.

The breeding sector, which was once the leading sector in the province, is now the worst, according to the village committee.

According to the head of Quan The Hamlet Management Board, the total number of goats, cows and sheeps in the village has fallen from more than 20,000 to only 6,000 now.

The meadow area is also smaller, with many ponds and lakes affected by salt-water intrusion.

The lack of agricultural land means there are not enough jobs for residents, according to the Quan The Hamlet Management Board.

Before 2007, the income per capita was VND7.5 million (US$ 357) per person per year. The figure dropped to only VND5.5 million ($ 262) per person per year in 2010.

The total number of poor households in Phuoc Minh Village increased from 50 to 145.

According to the Phuoc Minh Village People's Committee, the village used to have nearly 3,600ha of agricultural-production land, but now the agricultural land area has dropped to 85ha.

It has been affected by salt-water intrusion, making production ineffective and insufficient.

Ho Van Hung, director of Ninh Thuan Province's Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said that tests had shown that salt concentration in water wells in Phuoc Minh Village was 98 times higher than allowed.

The salt concentration in ponds and lakes is 10 times higher than allowed, he added.

Main causes

The main cause of the salt intrusion is the improper usage of salt-water physical works, according to Hung.

Hung also warned that if the companies do not take prompt actions to prevent from salt-water intrusion, many surrounding villages of Phuoc Minh Village will also be affected by salt-water intrusion.

Moreover, many drainage works at Quan The 3 and 4 have not been completed, causing a large volume of rainwater to fall from Da Bac mountain. This has led to flooding permanently affecting 100 households in Lac Tien Hamlet.

A dike on a two-ha lake where seawater has been stored by the company to make salt is too weak. In 2005, one part of the dike broke, which brought salt water into residential areas.

The same problem occurred during floods in 2010, with many people affected by floods and salt intrusion because of the broken dike. If the dikes had not been built properly or upgraded, Phuoc Minh Village would be affected by serious floods for a long time, Hung noted.

The Provincial Party Committee, the People's Council and the People's Committee of Ninh Thuan Province have, for many times, ordered the Ha Long Company to solve the problems to prevent salt intrusion on agricultural land and residential areas. But the company has not taken action. (PNA/VNS)

DCT/ebp

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