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Concerns raised over toxic chemicals in Ratanakkiri

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times Share:
REUTERS/Ajay Verma/Files

An indigenous minority group living in the eastern province of Ratanakkiri is expressing concerns regarding the use of an illegal chemical in fertilisers by some companies who were granted Economic Land Concessions by the government.

The Cambodian Centre for Independent Media conducted a field survey in the area following reports and published its findings yesterday.

According to the report, seven companies granted with ELCs in Lumphat district failed to conduct social environment impact assessments. It said that the chemicals being used cause Parkinson’s disease among the Tumpoun population in Ratanakkiri province.

So Chey Udom, an editor for Voice of Democracy, said he interviewed local residents and found traces of paraquat, a toxic plant killer.

“Paraquat is listed by the Agriculture Ministry as a banned substance because it is dangerous,” Mr Chey Udom said. “We found traces of the chemical on an ELC nearby a Tumpoun community.”

Kim Roeun, a medical expert, yesterday said signs of Parkinson’s disease include trembling and stuttering due to loss of neurons.

“Long-term exposure to paraquat will affect your health,” he said. “The brain won’t be able to remember well.”

“Some farmers who use paraquat do not know how to protect themselves,” he added. “It will affect their brain.”

A total of 242,898-hectares of land in the province has been granted to comapnies for development by the government, according to a report by Open Development Cambodia.

Chhorn Phalla, a member of the Tumpoun community, said yesterday that the death of cattle sparked health concerns over chemicals in his community.

“We found paraquat-laced fertilisers on a company’s land,” Mr Phalla said. “The smell gave us headaches and one cow died.”

“Some of our cattle cannot eat grass,” he added.

Soy Sona, director of the provincial agriculture department, yesterday said he has yet to receive reports of cattle dying due to chemicals.

“We have not received any information about any cattle dying from chemical fertiliser,” Mr Sona said, adding that department officials will monitor the company activities. “In the past, we told companies to refrain from using chemical fertilisers near sources of water.”

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