Authorities in Laos have suspended operations of a Chinese-owned foam packing material factory, citing its impact on the environment and people who live nearby.
Located in the province’s Paksan district, the factory, which has been in operation since mid-October, makes foam trays that are sold to Chinese plantations for use in transporting bananas.
The factory emits noxious fumes that residents say is causing illnesses.
“The factory makes a really bad smell and it has made 10 families sick. They feel pain in their noses and it irritates their eyes,” a resident of the district’s Xoun village told RFA’s Lao Service on Tuesday.
A resident of Banthong village in the same district representing the villagers attended a meeting with local authorities on Monday.
“Both the district and province ordered this factory to stop operations today because the plant is too close to the community,” the village representative said.
“The authorities also ordered the plant to move to new location far away from the villages. As for where they will relocate, the plant owner has to talk to the provincial industry and trade department,” the representative added.
An official of the Bolikhamxay Administration Office also confirmed the suspension.
“At the meeting we agreed to suspend the operation of this plant. The reason is that the plant has failed to minimize its impact on the environment,” the official told RFA.
“[Authorities] saw the situation themselves. They also ordered the plant to be relocate,” the official added.
An official of the provincial planning and investment department said the plant wants to postpone relocation until a suitable area to relocate has been found.
“The plant is requesting 20 days for relocation. The district and province will discuss the request soon,” the planning official said.
But a local health professional expressed concern over the toxicity of the foam production process.
“Foam is like plastic. It is dangerous to our lungs and our respiratory system. It can cause lung cancer, a disease that is incurable and even deadly for the elderly,” the health official said.
RFA reported on Dec. 4 that residents in another village were dealing with the factory’s fumes and excessive noise between 6 a.m and midnight on a daily basis.
A source in that report said that the factory had claimed the life of one worker.
Reported and translated by RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.