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
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
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.