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Dead fish raise suspicions

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2-STORY-1.jpg

A Korean-owned biofuel factory is blamed by local officials and

villagers for dead fish and polluted water in the province's Samrong

Lake

HENG CHIVOAN

Fishermen cross the Samrong Lake in Kandal province Monday amid a sea of green scum and alleged pollutants.

Provincial officials and local villagers in Kandal province claim liquid waste from a Korean-owned bio-fuel factory has polluted a public lake and poisoned tonnes of fish.

Tong Simy, governor of Ponhea Leu district, said polluted water from a poorly designed waste pond at the MH Bio Energy Co was responsible for the poisoning of fish in the 325-hectare Samrong Lake.

He said the company could face closure if it does not take steps to stop the waste leakage.

"It is our responsibility ... to protect our villagers," Tong Simy told the Post Monday. "I think the company has been careless, and we will ask the government to intervene if the pollution continues."

Lee Dong Jun, executive director of MH Bio Energy, denied the allegation and complained about media coverage of villagers' complaints.

Company denials

"What was reported in local newspapers is not real information," he told the Post Monday.

"We have our own pond for liquid waste from the factory. I think people are just exaggerating. I can't believe reporters would make up a story like this."

BH Bio Energy produces ethanol for export and has operated in Kandal province since July.

Tong Simy said Samrong and Prek Phnov communes have been most affected by the waste leakage. Villagers depend on the lake for fish, farming and drinking water.

"We must protect our fishermen and those who need water for farming and livestock," Tong Simy  said, adding that environmental officials have been informed of the pollution.

WE DON’T REALLY TRUST THE COMPANY BECAUSE OUR FISH CONTINUE TO DIE.

"We are investigating the matter, and we will watch the activities of the company closely," he said.

Local villagers say hundreds of families have been affected by the waste leakage and that they are afraid to continue using water from Samrong Lake.

So Tharin, 55, a resident of Duong village in Prek Phnov commune, said he suffered skin irritations after inspecting dead fish from the lake.

"I saw waste water flowing from a pipe at the factory into the lake, and some of the fish have been poisoned," he said.

Chao Bun Thong, chief of Duong village, said 60 percent of residents in his village are fishermen and rely on Samrong Lake for their livelihoods.

"I have seen the dead fish, and I've made a report to several government ministries," he said.

Chao Bun Thong said he is concerned about potential damage to his village's rice fields and has assigned local residents to watch the bio-fuel factory.

"We don't really trust the company because our fish continue to die," he said. He added that the company has started shipping excess waste water from the company pond to Kampong Speu.

Company head Lee Dong Jun said his company has produced bio-fuels for 30 years and has a strict policy of protecting the environment.

"My business is a legal business and represents the future of Cambodia's economy," he said.

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