Luang Namtha provincial authorities plan to order the owners of a Lao-Chinese cassava-processing plant in the Long district to install more effective pollution controls or shut the plant down, RFA’s Lao Service has learned.
The plant owned by Jupaoyan Cassava Processing Co., Ltd. turns the edible, starchy, tuberous cassava root into biofuel for power generation, but villagers say effluent released from the plant is polluting a stream used by the residents of Phonesamphan and Taohom villages.
Though the owners of the 14-year-old plant have reached a deal with officials in the Long district to build four containment ponds, provincial officials don’t think the new ponds will do the job, a Long district official told RFA on condition of anonymity.
Officials from the Luang Namtha provincial administration office, natural resources and environment department, planning and investment department, and district officials discussed the impact of the pollution from the plant during a meeting on Thursday, the official said.
The authorities were expected to demand that the owner of the plant return from China and build a bigger waste treatment plant, or else shutter the plant.
As many as 700 families depend on the water from the stream that flows near the plant. When containment ponds overflow, the stream is contaminated.
The environment in Luang Namtha province has been polluted not only by the cassava biofuel plant, but also by herbicides and pesticides used on banana plantations as well as waste from mine excavation companies backed by Chinese investors.
Another cassava power-generating company located in Natham village in the Pak-Ngum district of Vientiane municipality released contaminated water into Nong-han Lake, killing hundreds of tons of fish between 2009 and 2015, according to a villager who requested anonymity.
Though the government failed to address the issue, the company, backed by a Korean investor, eventually went bankrupt and shut down, the villager said.
Reported and translated by Max Avary for RFA's Lao Service. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.