Monday, June 29, 2009

Vietnam: Farmers outraged by a telecoms project that dug up newly planted rice fields without notice or appropriate compensation

[than hnien news] Hundreds of farmers in Phu Yen Province are outraged and frustrated by a telecommunications project that dug up their rice fields without prior notice or agreement.

It was only after work on the project was obstructed by furious farmers that the contractor held a meeting to offer meager compensation for what was destroyed.

The farmers’ fields were dug up to install optical fiber cables from the province’s Tuy Hoa Town to Song Hinh District.

Hanoi-based Post and Telecommunication Construction Joint Stock Company (CPT) was laying the cable as part of a project to develop telecommunication systems in 10 central provinces funded by Japan’s official development assistance and invested in by Vietnam Post and Telecommunication Group (VNPT).

The contractor dug up dozens of kilometers at a width of four meters along Provincial Road 645 in the province’s Dong Hoa and Tay Hoa districts.

Thanh Nien reporters who visited the affected fields Wednesday found many farmers picking up rice plants from the excavated soil in the hope of replanting them elsewhere.

“We had just supplied fertilizer on the green fields a few days ago. They have callously dug the plants up,” said Huynh Van Luan from Hoa Binh 2 Commune in Tay Hoa District.

On a nearby farm, local resident Le Thi Thi was replanting the rice seedlings. “I had to race with the contractor’s backhoe to save these seedlings from being destroyed,” she said.

The farmers said they found last Friday their fields had been excavated and obstructed the contractor from wreaking further damage.

The contractor then held a meeting with the farmers and promised compensation of VND2,500 (US$0.14) per square meter that had been dug up, and to refill the site.

Vo Thi Lam of Hoa Binh 1 Commune in Tay Hoa District said the compensation was too meager for the cost of fertilizer, seedlings and labor it would take to replant the area.

The replanted area would have to be tended on a different schedule from the rest of the fields and it would be hard to harvest rice of different ages on the same field, one farmer said.

Hoang Van Sy, head of the construction team of the Tuy Hoa – Song Hinh cable line, said they had notified local authorities about the work.

Nguyen Van Giang, deputy chairman of Hoa Binh 2 Commune People’s Committee, confirmed the notification, but said the contractor had not mentioned any compensation.

An official of Tay Hoa District, Vo Van Cach, said he was not aware of the cable construction.

Tran Tan Dung, director of VNPT Phu Yen, said the parent company had held bids or assigned contractors for all project packages.

“VNPT Phu Yen only supervises technical aspects during the construction and will manage the work when they are completed [scheduled in September],” he said.

He also said the contractor was responsible for notifying residents about the work and offering the compensation before construction.

So far, only 80 affected farmers in Dong Hoa District’s Hoa Thanh Commune and Tay Hoa District’s Hoa Binh 1 Commune have accepted the compensation offered by the contractor. Official figures about the number of affected farmers in Tay Hoa District’s Hoa Binh 2 Commune were not available.

Telecommunications project digs up rice fields without notice

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