Vietnam’s prime minister halted work on a $10.6 billion steel plant on Sunday over environmental concerns, aiming to prevent a chemical spill like the one last year at another steel plant, the local news media reported, citing a government statement.
The steel maker Hoa Sen Group, the plant’s investor, was not immediately available for comment. The company announced plans last year for the project, a complex of more than 4,200 acres that could produce millions of tons of steel a year.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, saying he did not want another “Formosa incident,” asked related parties to clarify market demand and environmental impact, the website of the state-run Vietnam Television said.
Early last year, a steel plant run by the Taiwanese company Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation was the site of one of Vietnam’s worst environmental disasters. A toxic waste spill killed tons of fish and devastated fishing communities along Vietnam’s central coast.
Formosa Steel admitted responsibility and agreed to pay $500 million in damages, but for months afterward, residents of coastal villages and towns, where fishing drives the economies, continued to hold rallies against the government and the company.
The Communist Party has since stepped up scrutiny of investments.
In February, the government said it would not grant licenses to any projects with a high pollution risk. The deputy prime minister Trinh Dinh Dung asked the environment ministry to revise rules and to step up the inspection and supervision of projects at the investment and construction stages.