Authorities warn banana farms about overusing herbicides
Authorities have warned four Chinese companies for their overuse of herbicides on banana farms in Luang Prabang and Oudomxay provinces, saying that they would be ordered to halt their businesses if they continued to violate Lao laws.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's Agriculture Department Deputy Director General Ms Inthanongsith Kommameuang was responding to concerns raised by villagers from two provinces who called the National Assembly hotline recently.
The villagers from Nan district of Luang Prabang province said the Chinese company overused herbicides and other chemicals on their banana farm in the district, which affected the environment and the livelihoods of local people.
Meanwhile the villagers from Namor district of Oudomxay province blamed another Chinese company for overusing similar chemicals on their banana farm which leaked into rivers and killed aquatic resources.
Ms Inthanongsith said her ministry has contacted the relevant authorities to inspect banana farms in the two provinces and took samples for the identification of chemicals in labs and found that the four Chinese companies had in fact overused the said chemicals.
“We have called the four companies for a meeting and warned them that their business licenses could be revoked if they continue to contravene the laws,” she said.
“The chemicals overused by those companies will absolutely impact on the health of our people in the near future and that's why we have to take this issue into account and seek ways to solve it.”
The ministry is working in cooperation with authorities in the northern provinces where banana farms are operated including those in Luang Namtha and Bokeo provinces to set up a taskforce committee to handle chemicals-related issues.
Ms Inthanongsith said Bokeo province has already set up this committee to gather officials from the relevant sectors in order to better inspect the banana farms, ensuring that the Chinese companies do not use any banned chemicals.
Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's Land Administration Department Mr Anothai Chanthalasy told Lao media in July last year Chinese companies directly rented land areas from the villagers without approval from the authorities.
This made it difficult for authorities to inspect their farming activities and see how much chemical substances they have used on their farms, sparking fears that these projects will affect people's health in the long term.
Director of Bokeo provincial Department of Agriculture and Forestry Mr Kham Phalakhone told Vientiane Times recently that most companies aimed to gain benefits from their investments, so the government needs to inspect them and determine whether they follow the standard requirements when it comes to environmental issues.
Over 3,000 hectares of banana plantations have been grown in the province since 2010. The Chinese companies have rented the land plots from villagers at costs ranging between 3,000 - 7,000 baht (750,000-1,750,000 kip) per rai (1,600 square metres) per year, depending on the nature of the land and whether it needs to be cleared of scrub.
The Chinese companies want to expand their projects driven by the high demand for bananas on the international market. However local people do not dare to eat mushrooms and other forestry products in areas where herbicides have been used.
By Somsack Pongkhao
(Latest Update September 28, 2015)