A Lao Village Hit With Brick Kiln Pollution Seeks a Solution

2016-12-01
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A map showing Laos.
A map showing Laos.
RFA

Pollution from a brick kiln operating near the Lao capital of Vientiane is bedeviling residents of the Nonsa-ath village as it is still belching toxic smoke into the area despite a government order to stop.

“The factory is still running and dumping smoke all over our village,” one villager told RFA’s Lao Service. “People in the nearby areas will suffer when the wind blows the smoke to them. We cannot do anything, so we just get into our houses and shut the door.”

Production at the kiln owned by the Vietnamese Tui Nen Ven Jeuang company was stopped by the government early last month, but the shutdown was brief, said the villager who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another villager told RFA that several residents met with the company’s upper management in an effort to get them to mitigate the pollution, but they were turned away.

“We want the upper management to come and see our situation and help solve the problem for us,” said that villager who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Many villagers who live near the factory are severely suffering and we really need help,” the villager added.

Brick kiln problems

While pollution from brick kilns doesn’t command the attention of pollution from automobiles or steel plants, such furnaces are among the most egregious industrial environmental offenders in South Asia.

Brick manufacturing is a double-edged sword for many under-developed nations as demand for bricks is booming and it is a relatively easy manufacturing process to develop.

While brick making can provide income for cash-strapped economies, it also comes with a high environmental price.

According to recent environmental studies the concentration of particulate matter in the air is three times higher in areas where a kiln is operational than during the off-season when the kilns are shut down.

Effluent from brick kilns causes respiratory problems and other adverse health effects leading to high mortality and morbidity as well as environmental costs like reduced soil fertility, poor visibility and drying ground water sources.

‘We cannot make an order to close the factory’

While the effects of brick manufacturing pollution are well known, it’s unclear if the Nonsa-ath villagers will soon see any relief.

An official with environment office in Xaythany district that covers Nonsa-ath said they knew nothing about the plant’s fate.

“We do not know if there will be an order to permanently close the factory, and we cannot issue an order to close the factory,” said the official who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Last time, as part of the committee, we went to the factory and told the owner to stop the operation and properly submit paperwork according to the environmental rules,” the officials said.

Reported and translated by Lanxang for RFA's Lao Service. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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