More than 100 households in Pailin province’s Sala Krao district have petitioned provincial authorities to intervene and stop the drainage of sewage and toxic waste into a natural stream in Stung Kach commune, saying they are concerned about its “detrimental effects” on their farming and livestock.

The villagers alleged that the source of the contamination is Caishen, a Chinese company that processes dried mangos.

Bor Srey Neath, a 30-year-old resident of Phsar Prom village in the commune, told The Post on March 12 that the spillage was causing respiratory problems for local residents, and had given the stream a foul odour. In addition, the villagers’ chickens and ducks were falling sick, some of them later died.

“This problem has been going on for a long time now and has not been resolved. The people cannot bathe daily, because they rely on the stream. This is affecting people’s health – especially children’s,” she said.

Srey Neath said authorities had met with the factory owners several times, but no changes appeared to have been made. She was one of the people who had thumbprinted the petition to the authorities, and hoped the issue would be resolved soon.

Hem Chey, a 40-year-old resident of O’Ro-oel village in the same commune, told The Post that the issue had been getting worse for several months. On March 8, more than 100 households had thumb-printed the petition.

She said the factory discharge was eliminating the biodiversity of the stream, including fish and water plants. At the same time, as the stream was a source of irrigation for local crops, it was affecting them too.

“It smells bad and it damages the environment. It is difficult for us to breathe, and even the fish in the stream are dying. We need to use the water from the stream to mix our fertiliser and pesticides, and the smell of it is damaging the quality of our crops,” she added.

Pailin provincial environment department director Sak Savrith told The Post on March 12 that the company had resolved the issue a day earlier.

“They have agreed to build liquid waste treatment tanks and will dig more ponds to store wastewater. This will stop the overflow into the stream,” he said.

Savrith added that the company had not previously taken the necessary measures to alleviate the problem, but had not acknowledged what it needed to do.

“We have already solved this problem. The company has dug another pond to store wastewater,” he said.

The Ministry of Information announced on March 11 that the Pailin provincial authorities – led by governor Ban Sreymom – inspected the factory the day prior and ordered the end of the discharges.

“Sreymom urged the company to cooperate with specialist officials to ensure that it would no longer contaminate public water sources,” it said.