Concern and frustration at government delay

Tonnes of dead fish have washed up on beaches since early April. Picture courtesy AFP

Tonnes of dead fish have washed up on beaches since early April. Picture courtesy AFP

With demonstrations banned, and the media firmly under state control, frustration at the government’s handling of the mass fish deaths in central provinces has increasingly been restricted to social media.

Concerned citizens have been relying on the internet to share information about the disaster amid widespread distrust of the government’s response and its failure to identify who was responsible.

An online survey conducted by an independent NGO found that 86% of respondents were very concerned about the environmental disaster.

A self selecting sample of 8,000 people responded within 48 hours of the survey going online on the Facebook page of the environmental group, Green Trees, which campaigned to stop the cutting down of trees in Hanoi by the city authorities last year.

Many respondents expressed their anger at the slow reaction of top leaders and demanded transparency in what’s seen as the worst environmental catastrophe in the country’s recent history.

The government has yet to announce the results of its investigation into the cause of the disaster, which many activists suspect was caused by discharges from a steel plant run by a subsidiary of the Formosa Plastics Corporation of Taiwan.

From the replies to date, 86% of them stated that they were very concerned about the mass fish deaths and 13% said they were concerned about it.

44% of all those who were surveyed reported that they had stopped eating fish and other seafood since hearing news of the disaster, while 36% of them said they had stocked up on sea salt and fish sauce. 95% indicated that they wanted to know the cause of the catastrophe.

The overwhelming demand was for more transparency from a government that has done little to reassure the public that it will punish the perpetrators and take steps to prevent similar disasters in the future.

Many respondents said that a state of emergency should have been called; emergency help given to fishermen and their families; an independent committee set up to investigate; and compensation offered to victims.

When asked whether they were satisfied with the reaction of the government, 58% stated that they were completely unsatisfied and that the government had made things worse. 37.5% said that the government had failed to act accordingly.

This survey will continue until June 16, 2016.