People in Phieng district, Xayaboury Province have expressed concerns about residue from chemical substances that were used by a Chinese investor for a banana farm and led to wastewater and fish dying in the nearby Nam Yam River.
This is according to letters of complaint from locals that have called on the relevant sectors to inspect the chemical-affected area near the Chinese banana and watermelon farms in Phonthong village, Phieng district.
Although the banana farm creates jobs for local people, the chemicals used on the banana farm leave residue that has already affected the environment and living conditions of local people and may continue to do so for a long time in the future. The residue has negative impacts on the health and living conditions of people living nearby the farm because they either don’t know about the possible consequences of exposure to the residue, or they lack the knowledge of how to protect themselves.
There are over 520 hectares of Chinese banana farms in Xayabouly Province. In Phonthong and Nakong villages in Phieng district, there are about 197 hectares of banana plantations. In Xayaboury district, Namliem village has over 160 hectares, Nalwom has almost 90 hectares, and Vangkham has almost 70 hectares.
Chemical substances being used on Chinese banana farms are currently affecting people living in the villages of Phonthong, Nakong, Phonsak, Nakhayang, Phonngam and Haddia.
These people rely on the water in the Nam Yam River, but have found both aquatic animals and water plants that have died as a result of exposure to the residue. As a result, the villagers are afraid to use the water or eat anything from the river, according a letter filed to the concerned sector that went viral on February 8.
The area the worst affected by the chemical residue is Phonthong village because farmland and food sources have been limited by the cultivation of bananas. As a result, there have been several burglaries.
Xayaboury, Bokeo, Luang Prabang, Oudomxay and Phongsaly are the main provinces where bananas are grown for export to China.
The problem is not only confined to the northern part of Laos. Many hundred of hectares of Chinese banana farms have expanded to Vientiane Province and the capital.
An official from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said that the Prime Minister’s Office has ordered a halt to all commercial banana farming.
Oudomxay and Luang Namtha Provinces are the major centres for banana plantations in the country. In Oudomxay, 23 companies were growing bananas on about 6,000 hectares last year.
According to a report by the National Assembly in October last year, some provinces were using too many insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers, but said the matter was not featured in reports submitted to the Assembly.
Some people have allegedly become ill and died following the spraying of pesticides on farms, but the report did not say where this had occurred.
Source: Lao News Agency