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Factory waste blamed for health, crop woes

Forty families in Kampong Chhnang province’s Peani commune complained yesterday that a local factory has been polluting their land with toxic liquid waste.

Kong Yom, 40, a representative of the 40 families in Krang Ta Ekh village, said yesterday that this is not the first time villagers have complained that weaving factory The Best Season is destroying their land.

“We have asked the local authorities many times already to intervene, but this factory keeps releasing its waste into our rice fields. Now, 50 hectares of rice fields have been destroyed because of the waste,” Yom said.

One of the villagers, 29-year-old Oeurn Nit, said that during the dry season, locals depend on the Krang Ta Ekh river as a source of clean water. But, he claims, pollution from the factory has put a stop to this.

“We do not know what the chemical substances are, but it turns the water a dark colour and [makes it] stink.… The villagers’ skin will be itchy after they use [it],” Nit explained.

Village elder Rith Soth said the factory has been secretly releasing toxic liquid waste into the rice fields and river for a number of years, “but the factory has not been fined or punished by the authorities at all”.

Taim Saroeurn, Kampong Tralach deputy district governor, told the Post that in 2013 the Environment Ministry issued a warning letter, threatening to temporarily stop production at the factory if measures were not taken to stop the waste infecting the surrounding area.

After receiving the letter, the factory made improvements, which included plans to build a stronger reservoir to store the toxic liquid and filters to treat it, Saroeurn said.

“For this new case, I do not know clearly yet, but I will send our officials to cooperate with the experts at the provincial environment department to inspect the site soon,” he said, adding that if the villagers’ claims are proven true, he would temporarily stop operations at the factory.

Tut Sokunteara, a manager at The Best Season, denied intentionally leaking the waste, but said it might have come through cracks in reservoirs.

“We accept that there are some technical points that we have not improved yet, but we can improve it again,” he said.

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