Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Yun Min on Monday warned that a coal plant in Stung Hav district’s Otres commune might be closed after 42 families complained against the factory.
The villagers who live near the plant expressed concern that the clouds of dust resulting from the factory’s activities might have compromised their health.
Min on Monday said the plant was authorised to operate by the Ministry of Industry and Handcraft, after leading a working group comprising technical experts, among others, during an inspection to the factory.
A representative from the plant promised to prepare a technical plan to solve the problem, Min said.
He said the working group had agreed to allow some time for the representative to prepare the plan to address the problem.
“We gave them [the plant] another few months to improve the [environmental] situation. If it does not comply with the instructions, we will stop its operations or force it to relocate far away from the villagers’ houses,” Min stressed.
The governor continued that solving the problem would create a win-win situation for both the company and the villagers.
“The company will continue profiting from their business and the villagers will have jobs and better health,” he said.
Khiev Vuthy, a representative of the families, said the plant had been impacting their health since it began operations in 2013, yet most of them remained “in their native village” but “had to endure the problem every day”.
The villagers, he said, had filed multiple complaints to the commune and district authorities and addressed the matter directly to the plant, but to no avail.
Vuthy said some villagers, at one point, “fell sick one by one due to the dust cloud”.
The incident forced the community to file a complaint to the provincial authority and asked them to visit the site directly.
“Young or old . . . almost all fell sick. I have yet to get myself checked. Overall, the situation is very difficult due to the dust cloud coming from the plant,” he stressed.
Similarly, provincial environment department director Samuth Sothearith said on Tuesday that the plant representative agreed to prepare a technical strategy to prevent the dust cloud from infiltrating people’s houses.
“We will also hold a public forum so the villagers can express their opinions and make inquiries to speed up the creation of solutions to this matter,” Sothearith said.
Sok Sokhom, the director of the Cambodian National Research Organisation, said he hoped that “national and sub-national level officials would urge the plant owner to relocate far from a residential area”.
“Preparing the technical strategy [might] take months to complete. The problem [of dust clouds compromising people’s health] will carry on in the meantime,” Sokhom stressed.
Neither the plant owner nor any of its representatives could be reached on Tuesday for clarification on the matter.
However, the plant manager – Chen Song – was quoted by the provincial administration as saying that it was producing 100 tonnes of fine aggregate from treated coal waste every day.
Speaking on behalf of the factory, he promised to minimise the occurrence of dust clouds during the process so as not to compromise the villagers’ health.
“We will seek measures to reduce the dust without impacting the environment and the welfare of our people who live around my plant,” Song stressed.