Last update:
2020-01-10

Formosa Toxic Waste Spill and Marine Life Disaster in Central Vietnam

Taiwanese company Formosa Plastics Group dumped waste from their steel plant into the open ocean devastating local fish populations and leaving villages with no income. Activists were brutally attacked.


Description:

Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị, and Thừa Thiên–Huế are provinces on the coast of central Vietnam with vibrant marine ecosystems (including rare and endangered species) that are critical to the livelihoods of the local population, predominantly fishing villages [1]. On December 2, 2012, Taiwanese company Formosa Plastics Group built a large iron and steelmaking plant named Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh (FHS) at a deepwater port in Ky Anh, a commune in Hà Tĩnh [4]. For the next several years, tensions were already high between locals and the steel plant because of ethnic conflicts regarding the mostly undocumented Chinese immigrants working there [3]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Formosa Toxic Waste Spill and Marine Life Disaster in Central Vietnam
Country:Vietnam
State or province:Hà Tĩnh
Location of conflict:Ky Anh
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Wetlands and coastal zone management
Metal refineries
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Steel
Fish
Project Details and Actors
Project details

In 2010, 3,300 hectares of land in Kỳ Anh District was allocated to Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel (FHS) by Ha Tinh Province. Governmental incentives for the plant included low taxation in imported capital goods, low land taxes, and the development of infrastructure supporting the project. In late 2015, the plant outputted the first hot rolled coil manufactured in Vietnam. "Phase 1" Blast furnace iron production was scheduled to begin in 2016, with two blast furnaces at the plant having a total production capacity of 7.5 MT pa; approximately 6 MT were for flat steel production, and 1.5 MT for rebar and other rolled steels. Two further expansion phases were planned to increase production to 15 MT and then 22.5 MT pa. [21]. The first blast furnace began production in May 2017.In 2017, the company announced an additional ~$350 million investment into the plant, part of which was for the installation of a coke dry quenching system. Formosa Ha Tinh Steel’s second blast furnace started operations in May 2018, a feasibility plan for the third blast furnace is expected for 2020 [20].

Project area:3,300
Level of Investment:22,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:250,000
Start of the conflict:06/04/2016
Company names or state enterprises:Formosa Plastics Group/Formosa Plastics Corporation (FPG/FPC) from Taiwan - Perpetrator
Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh (FHS) from Vietnam - Perpetrator
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Planning and Investments
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Nha Trang Institute of Oceanography
Vietnam Path Movement (http://conduongvietnam.org/)
Defend the Defenders (https://rsf.org/en/defend-defenders)
Human Rights Watch Vietnam (https://www.hrw.org/asia/vietnam)
The 88 Project (https://www.the88project.org)
OceanCare (https://www.oceancare.org)
Radio Free Asia (https://www.rfa.org/english/)
The Justice for Formosa Victims organization (JFFV)
Catholic Church of Vietnam
Taiwan’s Environmental Rights Foundation
The Labor Movement of Vietnam
No-U Saigon
Con Nam Church
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Women
Local scientists/professionals
Journalists. Celebrities
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Repression
Violent targeting of activists
Activists were badly wounded
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Although there were compensatory payments and a cleanup, in practice these were not actually executed properly and affected populations still did not get justice. Consequently the resulting social problems continue to worsen today, such as causing an increase in human trafficking because the fishing villages have no other sources of income. Activists trying to obtain justice are still regularly threatened and arrested.
Sources & Materials
Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[11] Algae and Toxins, Not Steel Mill Waste, Blamed for Vietnamese Fish Kill
[click to view]

[12] NGOs take Formosa Plastics to task over marine disaster in Vietnam
[click to view]

[13] We Choose Fish
[click to view]

[15] Government Loyalists in HCM City Brutally Assault Activist Le My Hanh in Second Attack Against Her within One Month
[click to view]

[16] Two Hanoi-based Activists Beaten While Holding Facebook Live Stream about Formosa
[click to view]

[17] Vietnamese Victims of Toxic Waste Spill File Suit Against Taiwan Firm
[click to view]

[18] Vietnamese fishermen battle for justice
[click to view]

[19] Trafficked Vietnamese and the lure of UK nail bars and cannabis farms
[click to view]

[20] FGP’s Vietnamese steel unit
[click to view]

Formosa Steel lifts investment to $22b in cast iron refinery
[click to view]

[21] Formosa Steel lifts investment to $22b in cast iron refinery, 24 April 2012.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[10] Podcast: Taipei Court Dismisses Lawsuit Filed by 8,000 Marine Disaster Victims
[click to view]

Shocking Video Shows Thugs Beating Activist Le My Hanh in Saigon | Radio Free Asia (RFA)
[click to view]

Other comments:Taiwan-invested Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Co has increase its investment in its cast iron refinery in the central province of Ha Tinh to US$22 billion. When completed, the project will be the first facility of its kind in the nation. In its status report on the project to the Viet Nam Steel Association, the company said the total cost both stages of the project had initially been estimated at $15 billion but the figure had now been hiked to $22 billion. [21]
Meta information
Contributor:Dalena Tran, ICTA, [email protected]
Last update10/01/2020
Comments
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