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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rubber factories blamed for sick villagers and dying crops

Rubber factories blamed for sick villagers and dying crops

Rubber factories blamed for sick villagers and dying crops

rubber.jpg
rubber.jpg

What was once fertile rice paddy is now only capable of sustaining tufts of grass after water was discharged from a rubber processing factory into the irrigation streams adjoining the fields. Trees along the edge of the stream are also beginning to die. The rubber plantation in the background is unaffected.

AT least 334 families in three areas in Kampong Cham have suffered ill health and

had their rice fields made infertile from pollution from rubber-processing factories,

according to the human rights group Adhoc.

An Adhoc report on the three factories in the area blames pollution from the factories

and says the problem has got progressively worse over the past year.

Neang Sawat, head of Adhoc's Kampong Cham Human Rights office, who also works for

the Advocacy Network (a group of NGOs that provide assistance to poor people trying

to bring complaints about matters that affect their day-to-day living) - said he

had received complaints from villagers over discharges from rubber processing factories

in Chamkar Andong, Chop and Ta Pao during the past three years.

Around the Chop factory about 100 families have complained of ill health over the

past three years, including chronic skin diseases and stomach problems. Children

have been the worst affected.

In addition, 25 hectares of rice fields have become infertile since runoff from the

factory began flooding their land.

An investigator from Adhoc asked the Chop factory head of administration, Sok Sam,

to build a water treatment plant for the discharge, but he said they are still waiting

for approval from the Government and the factory's general manager.

Sawat said he had gathered samples of water for analysis to see if they could isolate

the chemicals causing the problems and find a way to undo the damage.

Another rubber processing factory at Chamkar Andon, has also been blamed for causing

problems in the area. Locals from three villages, Sou Taseng, Srey Prang and Number

85, said they had lost about 70 hectares of cropping land - rice fields and vegetable

farms.

They also complained that the runoff from the factory had affected the ground water.

Tep Ngon, a medical assistant in the area, said the villagers had complained of health

problems similar to those of the people living round the Chop factory.

He said that children who drink water in the field seem to be suffering the worst.

He said the most serious problem appeared to be skin diseases.

Residents around the Ta Pao rubber processing factory report a similar story of ill

health and abandoned rice fields.

Pen Yon, a representative of 123 families of Pong Teuk village, said problems were

first noticed in 1997 but in the past year it has become much worse.

He said the villagers have abandoned their rice fields as the crops withered and

died.

Sawat said he believed other factories in the province were causing similar problems

but he had not yet recieved complaints about them.

Heng Nareth, head of the Pollution Department at the Ministry of Environment, said

he would be sending staff to investigate the complaints and to try and establish

what was causing the ill health and crop failures.

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