Many residents in villages in Ha Nam Province's Duy Tien District became seriously ill and lost their jobs after giving up farmland to the state to make room for the Dong Van Industrial Zone (IZ) in the province.
The causes behind the increasingly high number of cancer cases in the province has not been mentioned in any official document. However, local residents blame the factories that produce black smoke every day in the Dong Van IZ. They said the cancer cases occurred after the IZ opened.
The Than Nu and Van Phai Hamlets, which reportedly have the highest percentages of cancer cases, are closer to the Dong Van IZ than other localities.
Nguyen Cong Chuan, head of the Healthcare Center of Bach Thuong Commune in Duy Tien District, said smoke, dust, bad odors and waste water from the factories in the IZ had been impairing people's health.
Last year, 11 people died from cancer, and six more have died this year, he said. However, the real number of cancer cases could be higher, because many people did not have money for treatment and they died without any formally declared cause of death.
Bach Thuong's people have been living a peaceful life and earning their living on agricultural production for many generations.
Ngo Duc T, a man in Than Nu, said the hamlet could be compared with a deep hollow surrounded by factories from all sides.
T said there was a canal for domestic waste water drainage, but it had been filled in by the factories. Today, it only takes a small rain to inundate the villages.
The waste water from factories runs into canals around the IZ before it is discharged into the environment.
Local residents have tried to build embankments to prevent the black oily water from entering rice fields and residential quarters. However, the embankments have disintegrated and the waste water continues to flood fields.
“Rice fields have withered, fish have died, and people have also died, one after another,” T said, adding that dozens of people in the hamlet had died of cancer after moving to make way for the factory.
Only 30 households in Than Nu Hamlet have clean water for daily use, while the others have to use water from the wells they dig themselves. Since the first day the local factories began discharging untreated waste, the well water has been oily and unusable.
Several years ago, when Than Nu's people had to give their land to Dong Van IZ, five of them visited Nong Nghiep Viet Nam's reporters to ask for help. Two of them reportedly died of cancer.
“We have been sentenced to death since the day the factories were built here. If we don't die of cancer, we will die of starvation,” a local man said. “We have lost our agricultural land. We don't know what to do to earn a living.”
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