A Vietnamese rubber company running a plantation in Mondulkiri province’s Pech Chreada district on Wednesday made an agreement with the local communities and authorities to stop operating in a way that is harmful to the environment.
The pledge was made after complaints were filed that Daklak Rubber Company did not manage its waste properly, causing a pesticide spill to flow through Bou Sra waterfall and reach a water body that is frequently used by the villagers for bathing and drinking purposes.
Kroeung Tola, the community representative, on Wednesday said he had sought the authority’s intervention through Facebook on May 5, alleging that some villagers from Bou Sra and Krang Tes communes had suffered skin-related diseases after bathing and drinking water from the waterfall.
He stressed that Daklak Rubber had failed to manage its waste properly and let chemical substances spill into the water.
“The raw rubber that the company extracted was placed near a stream. As a result, chemical substances spilt into the water body,” Tola said.
He said the company had admitted their mistakes after the authorities and villagers inspected the site directly.
“They never claimed responsibility for the mistakes in the past. But yesterday [Tuesday], with the presence of a specialist team, the company promised they will change [the way they operate] and use a new location to store their raw rubber containers,” he said.
He said the Vietnamese-owned firm had pledged it would solve the environmental issues caused due to the company’s negligence.
However, Tola alleged that local authorities have never forwarded their complaints to the company.
Ever since Daklak Rubber started running their plantation in 2010, he said, a number of people have reported that they experienced various health problems.
When they sought medical treatment, with some even going to Vietnam, “all medical experts confirmed that their health problems were caused by chemical substances”, Tola continued.
Srang Soeun, a villager who resides in Pou Terk village, said water from Bou Sra waterfall might have caused his children’s ailments.
“They got rashes after swimming in the area. Their eyes turned red,” he said.
Pech Chreada district police chief Tat Yen, who led a team of specialists on the site inspection, said the company did not have any technical experts to control its production process.
However, he pointed out that there was no chemical substance in the water body, and that the situation was not as serious as people had alleged.
“It is not true that the sickness was caused by chemical substances [dumped by the company]. It is not that serious . . . but the fact that the company does not have a technical team to control the process of rubber extraction which produces bad substances may cause it to happen,” he said.
Yen confirmed that the company had agreed to solve the problems.
Eang Mengly, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the government has instructed the authority to suspend or revoke the company’s operating licence if their actions are found to harm the environment.
Daklak Rubber Company was founded in 1994 and is based in Buon Ma Thuot, in Vietnam’s Dak Lak province.