Villagers sitting on a ticking pollution time bomb

VietNamNet Bridge
15 March 2015

A sudden downpour on a sunny spring day sends Nguyen Mot scurrying into his house.

But he is not trying to escape the rain. He darts about, shutting all the doors and windows in a vain bid to keep out the noxious odour that comes up with vapour sent up by the sudden rain.

“Pesticides,” he says, ruefully.

Mot is a resident of Trieu Phong District in the central province of Quang Tri.

“We have endured this for decades. The odour is quite light now, but it gets much stronger on hot summer days.

“Higher temperatures and sudden showers create more vapour, which means much stronger smells.”

Explaining the stink, he says: “A lot of unused pesticides left over in the local warehouse were buried in a landfill near here in Phuong Ngan Village, which is in the district’s Trieu Long Commune.
Mot, 72, was deputy chairman of the former Bac Long agricultural co-operative, which owned the warehouse used to store extremely toxic pesticides including D666, Wonfatox, Basagran, DDT, Palisade and Basudin.

Quang Tri was hit the hardest by American bombs during the war. Agriculture was the province’s sole post-war recovery hope, and pesticides were considered a ‘magic’ solution to boost rice productivity.

“A large quantity of pesticides was gathered in the warehouse between 1979 and 1995,” Mot says.

“During the subsidy period, pesticides were supplied to us for every crop, even when we did not need any.

“This piled up in the warehouse. At one time, we had to purchase two big 1,000 litre tanks to store liquid Wonfatox.

“The tanks leaked and the toxins were absorbed by the land for many years before the co-operative was closed in 1995. Heavy floods in 1985 and 1993 soaked the solid pesticides and these dissolved into the land as well.”

Sighing, he added: “The land around here has absorbed the toxins for decades and, of course, underground water has been contaminated.”

Nguyen Chi Nghia, whose house bordered the warehouse and the landfill site in 1995, affirmed Mot’s account. “I used to smell it every day. Our well, about 20m from the warehouse got contaminated as well. I had to move my family to another plot in 1991.”

In Hai Lang District, resident Nguyen Thanh Anh of Quy Thien Village in Hai Quy Commune, tells a similar story.

His house is close to the old warehouse of the former Quyet Tien agricultural co-operative.
“I smell the pesticides late at night and early in the morning. We have to take water from a well far from home for daily use.”

Villagers in the districts of Vinh Linh, Gio Linh, Cam Lo, Huong Hoa, Trieu Phong, Hai Lang, and Dong Ha Township are all experiencing the same difficulties and do not know how the situation is going to improve.

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