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Government tackles harmful pesticide issue

According to a 2007 survey from the Centre for Consultancy and Environmental Protection under the Viet Nam Sciences and Technology Association, the country has 335 stations storing pollution-causing chemicals, 240 of which cause serious pollution. Under Decision No 1946/QD-TTg, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) will oversee measures to improve the problem in those 240 stations by 2015. The remaining stations will be the focus from 2016 to 2025. If offices under MARD cannot treat the problem entirely, the Prime Minister asked that they concentrate on preventing the spread of pollution and move affected households and public offices to safer areas. The State budget is funding the work. Individuals and organisations selling and using out-of-date or forbidden substances need to reduce pollution levels and compensate affected people. "Most of the unused chemicals are imported DDT and 66 HCB, which have been prohibited in Viet Nam since the 1980s because they are harmful to people''''s health," said the centre director, Nguyen Van Lam. DDT is a strong pesticide that has been banned in developed countries since 1974 after it was found to have damaging effects on health and the environment. More than 108 tonnes of harmful substances were stored in the stations in 25 different provinces, and more than 53,000 cubic metres were soaked into the land. "In fact, the number might be much greater," Lam said. Of all the provinces, central Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Thanh Hoa provinces had the most stored chemicals, about 18 tonnes each, and experienced the greatest land pollution. Most of the stations were in rural and remote mountainous communes, but many are interspersed throughout residential areas like Do Luong, Thanh Chuong and Tan Ky districts in Nghe An Province. "A number of households smell chemical substances and use contaminated water everyday," said Lam. Nguyen Van Ha, a resident in Dong Son Commune in Do Luong District, said he had to keep his doors and windows closed because of the fumes from the nearby plant protection chemical store. "I had to have my daughter stay with my mother-in-law in another commune to prevent her from being poisoned with the smell," he said. Dao Trong Hai, head of the Dong Son Commune Health Care Centre, said the station could not confirm if the land was polluted but the number of people diagnosed with cancer increased. "In 2007, six people were diagnosed with cancer. The number rose to nine in 2008," he said. Most of the patients suffered from liver and stomach cancer. In 2009, plant protection chemicals poisoned nearly 5,000 people and killed 138, according to statistics from the Department of Preventive Medicine and Environment under the Ministry of Health. Bui Sy Doanh, Deputy Director of the Department of Plant Protection under MARD, said that scientists and environmental offices have tried to treat the chemicals in a number of ways. He said that it was not too difficult to treat unused stored chemicals, but scientists have not yet found any effective ways to treat contaminated land. "We cannot treat the land completely without some consequences," he said. The country also lacks capital for the treatment. About US$1,000 is needed to treat 1 tonne of land contaminated with plant protection substances. "The Prime Minister''''s decision can be considered a strict measure for the problem, but in the long term, treating plant protection chemicals thoroughly will still be a great challenge in Viet Nam," he added. — VNS

Read counts: 1398 - Updated date: 16/09/2011
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