Environmental Law

Comply with Environmental Regulations or have Licence revoked, Chinese Farming Firm warned

Date: 07 January 2019; Type: Legal News; Source: Vientiane Times

The Vientiane People’s Council has adopted measures demanding that a Chinese farming firm comply with environmental regulations or face the prospect of its investment licence being revoked.

The council’s resolution was adopted after the company, which was granted 160 hectares of land to grow bananas, sweetcorn and other crops in Sangthong district in 2014, was found using hazardous chemicals on its farm. The chemicals leaked into the Ton River, killing an estimated more than 300 kilograms of fish in November.

“The company confessed its wrongdoing and agreed to release at least 100,000 fingerlings into the river during each of three consecutive years,” Director of the Vientiane Natural Resource and Environment Department, Mr Bountham Phoutthavongsa, told the council recently.

The company is required to strictly follow safe cultivation methods as outlined by the Vientiane Agriculture and Forestry Department, according to the adopted measures presented by the Vientiane Natural Resource and Environment Department.

Mr Bountham told Vientiane Times on Friday that the council adopted the measures he presented.

If the company is found to be in violation of the safe cultivation methods, its operations could be closed down.

The measures also require the company to hire an independent environmental consultant to carry out a social and environmental impact assessment and then submit it to the Vientiane Natural Resource and Environment Department for approval.

Once approved, the farming company is required to strictly comply with the findings of this assessment. If it does not, it will face the shutdown of its operations.

Information collected by officials and confirmed by the Chinese company suggested that chemicals used at the banana farm leaked into the Ton River on November 4, Mr Bountham told the council in his report acquired by Vientiane Times.

Large amounts of fish were found dead in the river in the following days, alarming local people. Officials from the Vientiane Natural Resource and Environment Department inspected the river on November 11.

Chemical runoff from banana farms operated by Chinese firms, which has seriously affected the environment and local people, has been reported time after time in recent years.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith told the National Assembly in 2016 that the government issued an order prohibiting investment in banana plantations after learning of the severe environmental impact caused by the use of highly hazardous chemicals.

The premier said investors promised to leave their farms but appealed to harvest their last crop.

Although the government has imposed a ban, Assembly members said local authorities have found it difficult to implement, citing contract farming between investors and farmers, which require detailed measures to manage.

They said that if banana farm operators were ordered to cease immediately, investors could use this to justify not paying land leases and wages to contracted farmers.

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