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NEW UPDATES Asean Affairs  18 June 2015  

Villagers blame polluted river for cancer deaths

 Black-as-coal and smelling of something rank, the Nhue river snakes its way through the middle of Van Hoang Commune, Phu Xuyen District in Ha Noi. The polluted river is likely more than just an eyesore.

For years, villagers in the area blamed the river for the high incidence of cancer in their neighborhoods. Tin Tuc (News) newspaper looked into the claims of the so-called "cancer villages".

Resident Nguyen Van Sinh, 80 years old, claims the river has been polluted for 17 years and poisoned the groundwater, causing cancer in his community.

Statistics from the commune's People's Committee show that more than 100 people have died of cancer in the last 10 years and 26 are undergoing chemotherapy.

Duong Van Sy, chief of the Party Committee, said the problem was raised whenever National Assembly or people's council delegations came from Ha Noi and Phu Xuyen District.

Locals would file complaints and stir up public sentiment, but, "every time, things would subside and grow quite again," he said.

In May 2014, the Phu Xuyen District People's Committee made a report on the Nhue River's situation for Ha Noi City authorities as well as the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.

In the report, the committee pointed out that alongside the section of river running through the district, there were 98 craft villages, many of which discharged their waste directly into the river.

The committee said they inspected and fined production workshops that polluted the river.

Local youths and youth unions mobilised several campaigns to clean the river of visible trash.

The Phu Xuyen People's Committee felt they had done what they could do, claiming it was the solid and liquid waste from upstream of the district that was to blame.

Vice chairman of the committee Nguyen Dinh Chieu said solutions to the problem are in the hands of the authorities at city and central levels.

The Nhue River, running 76 km from north to south of the city, takes in water from the Hong (Red) River in the north of the city via the Lien Mac sluice gate.

Chieu thinks shutting the sluice gate might block the water responsible for the sludge and foul smell.

Duong Van Cong, head of the Van Hoang commune health clinic, said that though there is no scientific proof to link the high incidence of cancer to the contaminated water, it's not hard to draw some connection.

Despite the lack of proof, villagers use borewell water for daily use but must also filter the water.

Normally, filters need cleaning every six months, in Van Hoang commune they require cleaning every two months.

The commune's Party chief Sy said wealthier citizens had agreed to finance building a water plant for the commune but the district authority denied the project.

The district authority said they already made plans to build water plants for communes along the river, therefore communes aren't allowed to build a water plant lest it be out of line with the authorities' timelines.

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