Permission to dump 1 million m3 of ‘matter’ into Vietnam sea ‘unlawful’: lawyer

The permission to ditch one million cubic meters of ‘matter’ into the sea in south-central Vietnam’s Binh Thuan Province was granted without consulting local residents, a lawyer said.

In late June, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment granted Vinh Tan 1 Thermal Power Plant in Binh Thuan a permit to dispose of around one million cubic meters of mud and sand from its dredging activities into the sea.

The ditching site is within the waters of Binh Thuan’s Tuy Phong District, just eight kilometers from Hon Cau Marine Protected Area and over ten kilometers from shrimp and salt farms in the south-central province.

On Saturday, the Center for Media in Educating Community chaired a dialogue between Vietnam Administration of Sea and Islands (VASI) and local executives, lawyers and the media to discuss the controversial permission.

According to Nguyen Thanh Tung, director of VASI’s Policies and Legal Affairs Department, the ‘matter’ in question is the result of dredging activities to clear the way for a sea port where coal freighters can dock.

The ‘matter,’ essentially a mixture of mud and sand, is among eight groups of matters considered safe to be dumped into the sea by both Vietnamese laws and international protocols and conventions on marine protection, he added.

Regarding the method of ditching, Tung said a barge would be used to transport the ‘matter’ to the allocated location, which is a 30-hectare swath of sea off the coast of Tuy Hoa District.

Upon reaching the site, the bottom of the barge would be opened to release the mud and sand into the ocean.

Vietnam National Institute of Oceanography has been tasked with monitoring the activity, Tung said, which “will be ended immediately should any parameter be found to exceed safety limits”.

Unlawful permission?

Lawyer Nguyen Toan Thien, president of Binh Thuan Bar Association and a member of the provincial People’s Council, criticized the permission for the dumping as having been granted without consulting local residents.

According to Thien, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment had bypassed taking opinions from those who would be affected by the dumping of such ‘matter’ into the ocean, a step required by law.

The fact that the permission had been granted before public opinion was welcomed therefore made it “unlawful,” Thien said at Saturday’s dialogue.

“What the people need is a safe environment to live and make a living,” said Pham Van Chi, former chairman of Binh Thuan Province. “They don’t need compensation after an environmental disaster has struck.”

Chi therefore suggested suspending the permission until a safer location – at least a few dozen kilometers further from Hon Cau MPA and local farms – can be found to dump the massive amount of ‘matter’.

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