|Dabaco delays rectifying lasting pollution debacle |
Arriving in Hop Hoa ward on a bright sunny day last week, VIR was shocked by the rancid stench wafting everywhere. Dozens of people had gathered at a local home for a funeral meal, but nobody could eat anything because of the stench.
Instead of eating and chatting for the usual hour or so, they hurriedly put the bowls down and left after only 10 minutes. Meals for about 60 people were left for the flies.
“How can we eat with a nose full of fresh pig manure? We should wear face masks, go home, and close all doors and windows before the smell takes us all,” said a local.
She pointed to the yard and said, “We used to play badminton there every afternoon, but we cannot anymore because of the stench. We are getting sick from breathing this smell every day.”
Walking through a small field towards the Day river on the other side of which in Phuc Ung ward a Dabaco Group farm containing more than 40,000 pigs is located, it became apparent that the river is running black with foam and dead fish floating on the surface. The smell of pig manure was strong in the air, like standing next to an unflushed toilet.
According to residents living in Hop Hoa ward, the farm has been polluting the air for nearly two years. The situation improved slightly early this year when the number of pigs was reduced significantly after the African swine fever epidemic, but has only gotten worse since.
“Our houses and fields are near the pig farm and when the smell comes up, people just cannot work on the fields,” resident Cuc told VIR. “Sports activities for young people like football and volleyball also had to be stopped due to the stench. Along with the air pollution, mosquitoes are also much more prevalent than before.”
Another resident, Ngoan, added, “The air reeks of pig manure, especially in late afternoon and evening. We have to use face masks even at home and in bed. In the summer, it only gets stronger. We are worried about the health for our families, especially our children.”
According to Ngoan, there are 215 households and almost 900 people living in this ward. She raised the problem at meetings that saw the participation of provincial and disctric-level people’s committees, but has received nothing but empty promises or even silence.
“Last year, I called the deputy director of Dabaco as well as leaders of the people’s committees to ask the company to deal with the smell. All we achieved was for the stench to subside for a few days,” Ngoan added, “I guess that the company has some chemicals to deodorise the manure but it is expensive, so they do not use it often.”
Dabaco, which specialises mainly in animal feed, cattle and poultry breeding, and food processing, has a 43-hectare farm in Tuyen Quan with 1,500 sows and 43,000 commercial pigs, each year providing about 10,000 tonnes of pork to the market.
The farm is said to be built in accordance to the technical standards of the world’s leading livestock farms, while the waste is said to be put into the treatment system, creating a well-ventilated environment without any odour.
Duong Van Chu, general director of Dabaco Tuyen Quang, did not deny the issue of environmental pollution. “The waste from the farm is often treated by probiotics, but sometimes the company does not have enough probiotics so the odour increases. We will check and fix it soon.”
Dabaco Tuyen Quang is the biggest farm companies under Dabaco Group but is by no means the first to pollute its surroundings.
Several other farms under the group’s management in Bac Ninh, Haiphong, Phu Tho, Ha Nam, and Ha Tinh provinces have been fined in the past for violations relating to discharging waste into the environment.
In this March, Phu Tho People’s Committee issued a fine of VND300 million ($13,000) to the group, which constructed a cattle and poultry breeding farm in Tam Nong district of Phu Tho province without the proper licenses for the project component protecting the farm’s environment.
Responding to the fine, Do Viet Quan, manager of the project, said that the company built two systems to deal with the environmental issue with the total investment capital of VND20 billion ($869,500), however, the company made some changes in to project’s planning and thus did not submit the dossier to attain the certification. “We reported this change to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development but were refused to be licensed. As a result, the provincial People’s Committee issued the fine,” Quan said.
In April, local media also reported that people living in Tan Chi commune, in Bac Ninh’s Tien Du district, complained about the stink coming from the local cattle and poultry breeding farm of Dabaco.
According to locals, the issue had been going for around six years, with the canals and ditches around the farms being choked and killed by black wastewater.