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Battambang villagers have mixed feelings over new cement factory

Pav Suy / Khmer Times Share:
The $230 million cement factory began operations in May. KT/Mai Vireak

A new cement factory in Battambang province has begun construction of a concrete road connecting it to one of Cambodia’s national roads, leaving nearby residents with mixed feelings.

Residents in the area say that even though development is seen as a positive and offers job opportunities, noise pollution from the factory and its construction of the road has been unbearable.

Valued at $230 million, the cement factory in Battambang province began operations in May, after which work on a road connecting to National Road 57 began.

The complex spans 316 hectares of land in Ratanak Mondol district and boasts the capability to produce two million tonnes of cement per year with about 500 workers.

The plant is a joint-venture between China-based Conch International Holding and Battambang KT Cement, which is owned by businessmen Vinh Hour and Kong Triev.

Buth Ravy, a motorbike repairman living along a portion of the road still under construction, said that even though the factory gave him a job, there are also negative effects from the development.

“I was almost deafened from the noises made during construction. If I don’t protect my hearing, it could affect me,” Mr Ravy said.

Keat Kakada, an electrician who was working outside of the province, said the development brought him back to look for opportunities at home.

“The salaries are the same now, so I can come back and live close to home in Battambang,” Mr Kakada said. “Here, I am offered food and accommodation, but the job here is quite difficult as there are some risks involved, especially to our health when we inhale dust – and there’s noise pollution everywhere.”

The new road connecting to National Road 57 is to facilitate the transport of cement in and out of the factory.

Em Yura, a resident living in the area, said that she and her husband both used to work in Thailand and both returned to the province upon hearing of closer work opportunities.

“My husband and I used to work in Thailand, but we wanted to live near our family. In Thailand, we had to work a full week and my husband said the job was difficult because he had multiple responsibilities.”

Conch Cement representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Deputy provincial Governor Soeun Bunrithy said that the factory is offering a lot to local communities.

“First, the factory gives the community jobs and second, it’s building a six-metre-wide road in the area and also a primary school, which is already finished.” Mr Bunrithy said. “The factory is prepared to offer more if requested.”

Regarding noise pollution, Mr Bunrithy defended the factory and said that all operations have been approved and that environmental and social studies were conducted prior to beginning construction.

“Prior to the investment, the Environment Ministry was consulted by the companies and approval had to be given by the Council for Development of Cambodia,” he said. “The authorities on all levels approved all construction projects.”

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