Vietnam names officials responsible for environment disaster

HANOI • Vietnam yesterday named for the first time 11 government and industry officials as being responsible for one of its worst environmental disasters, caused by a unit of Taiwan giant Formosa Plastics.

Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, which runs an US$11 billion (S$15 billion) steel plant, polluted over 200km of coastline last April, killing more than 100 tonnes of fish and devastating the environment, jobs and economies of four provinces.

Last month, the government said it would punish four officials over the disaster, either by transferring them to other departments or handing them administrative action, warnings or rebukes, but did not name them.

The Communist Party Inspection Commission's announcement, carried by the government news website, is the first time Vietnam has publicly named the officials responsible, 11 months after the accident.

The officials were "irresponsible in leadership and direction, lax in management and administration... lack of inspection and monitoring", the commission said, which led to the violations by Formosa, according to the report.

It named former environmental minister Nguyen Minh Quang, former vice-minister Bui Cach Tuyen and the former head of Ha Tinh provincial people's committee Vo Kim Cu, along with eight other officials, saying they should be disciplined or face review.

More than 50 violations identified at Formosa's steel mill, including the unauthorised use of a dirtier production process, led to the disaster and sparked several public protests, with coordinated rallies in major cities and an outpouring of anger on social media.

After months of mystery over the cause of the fish deaths, and public outrage against the Hanoi government and one of the communist state's largest investors, Formosa agreed in June to pay US$500 million in compensation.

It is expected to take the affected region a decade to completely recover from the accident, the environment ministry said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2017, with the headline 'Vietnam names officials responsible for environment disaster'. Print Edition | Subscribe