Authorities in Siem Reap province’s Prasat commune on Thursday ordered owners of six charcoal kilns to shutter their operations following complaints from nearby residents that their health was being negatively impacted.
Prasat commune police chief San Song said the kilns had been operating for 10 days. He said some 30 other kilns are also up for inspection and possible closure.
“Officials did not burn down the six kilns which were in the process of making charcoal because they were worried that doing so would spark a blaze that could spread to nearby forests and homes,” he said.
Song said the officials instead had the owners sign a contract promising to shut down operations once the kilns finished producing their last batch of charcoal.
He said officials are now moving onto about 30 other kilns located in the area to instruct owners to shut down their operations if the kilns were found to be impacting the health of nearby residents.
The owners, he said, will be educated that the work not only impacts the health of villagers, but also leads to the destruction of the Kingdom’s natural resources.
Siem Reap Forestry Administration chief Mong Bunlim said the operations led to forest loss because villagers felled trees to make the charcoal, with most using wood illegally sourced from protected areas.
“Charcoal kilns without a permit or technical standards not only cause disputes with neighbours, but also harm forest resources and the environment,” he stressed.
Bunlim said smoke produced by the kilns lead to pollution and could also cause the villagers living nearby to suffer respiratory diseases.
He noted that the business is not outright illegal. Operators just need the proper permits and must follow proper standards and use wood sourced legally.
Chy Noeut, 44, said she operated two kilns that could produce more than 300kg of charcoal, but they were shut down by the authorities.
“Besides planting cassava, the charcoal kiln helped me earn a higher income as my husband and I do not want to work in other provinces or migrate abroad and leave our children, house and farm,” she said.
Noeut stressed that she used wood sourced from her 3.5ha plot. However, she had no choice but to close her kilns as the authorities threatened her with strict action if she did not comply.