EARTH Thailand

Da Nang suspends steel factories after days of pollution protests

Vietnam Express International 01 March 2018 | Nguyen Dong   

The protest is the second in a year and people are expecting more than just a temporary shutdown this time.

Authorities in Vietnam's central city of Da Nang closed down two steel factories on Wednesday following a prolonged protest by residents complaining about pollution and the city's failure to deliver on a promise to relocate them.

The local government has pledged to come up with a complete plan this week to move residents away from the factories, and many people are hoping that officials mean it this time.

“Please stop making promises and excuses,” Pham Mai, a resident, told officials as they met on Wednesday.

The $88-million plants, Dana Y and Dana Uc, started operation on an area of 22 hectares (54 acres) in 2006, with only a thin wall separating them from a residential area. They were designed to produce 700,000 tons of steel products a year.

Residents said the plants received approval from authorities, so officials should take the blame for the “unbearable” dust and noise that have bothered them for years.

Hundreds of people in Hoa Vang District have been protesting outside the factories since Monday night, putting up tents to show their determination to get the situation resolved.

“If you cannot fix the pollution, you have to move the plants,” Ngo Chau, a resident, told officials.

Either that or the city closes the factories until everyone is moved to a safe zone, said his neighbor Phan Nhan.

Officials were unable to give a concrete answer at the meeting, while the factories were quick to go on the defensive.

Huynh Van Tan, general director of Dana Y, said the protest has damaged its business and affected the jobs of thousands of local workers.

Tan said efforts have been made to reduce the amount of pollution the factory produces, such as planting trees to block the dust and soundproofing the walls.

He said his company supports the relocation plan but in order to pay for it, the factory needs to stay open.

Many residents were frustrated as it's not the first time they have complained.

They put up a similar protest in December 2016, when the city’s government also suspended manufacturing at the plants and put forward the relocation plan.

At a meeting with local officials two months ago, Da Nang’s Party chief Truong Quang Nghia said the steel factories “were destroying the area with their noise and dust.”

Nghia had asked officials to “solve the problem once and for all,” saying that steel development is not a priority for the city.