Rare Pollution Protest Creates Long Traffic Jam in Vietnam

Vietnam-tuyPhong-BinhThuanapril152015.jpg Map of village in southeastern Vietnam where protest took place, April 15, 2015.

Thousands of people in a southeastern Vietnamese village rallied to block a highway after dust from a nearby power plant covered their homes, creating a long traffic jam  that began on Tuesday and was still going on Wednesday, witnesses said.

The protesters said their entire village of Vinh Tan in coastal Binh Thuan province was covered with dust from Vinh Tan 2 coal-fired power plant, sparking fears about health effects of the pollution.

"They blocked the traffic because the dust filter of Vinh Tan 2 plant releases dust into the air every day. It looks like iron dust and was blown over the living space of the local people, making them upset," a witness told RFA's Vietnamese Service.

"They rallied at the highway since last night and blocked the traffic. They wanted to draw the attention from the local government to the air pollution and find a solution. We don’t know how the local government will address this issue," the witness said.

On Wednesday representatives of the Tuy Phong district government came to talk to protesters who were blocking highway 1A. But the intervention did not stop the protest, and the snarl of traffic reached 20 km (12 miles) long, a second witness told RFA.

"The traffic jam continues. Vehicles can’t move and drivers can’t do anything. People protest and the police did come but could not solve the problem," said another witness.

On Wednesday evening, some villagers went to Vinh Tan 2 plant to demand authorities close the $1.3 billion facility, which began operations in 2014, over pollution concerns that have persisted despite government fines.

A government-run website quoted Vietnam's Vice Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai as demanding immediate action from The Electricity of Vietnam Group, which operates the power plant, in implementing environmental regulations.

Reported by Mac Lam for RFA's Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Paul Eckert.


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