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NA Members Want Tougher Oversight on Chemical Use

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National Assembly (NA) members have proposed that the government impose tougher measures in managing the distribution and use of dangerous chemicals so they can be brought under control.

NA members expressed their wish yesterday when debating the NA’s Standing Committee oversight of social and environmental impacts caused by the use of dangerous chemicals in industry and farming by both companies and individuals.

It was recognised at the ongoing NA session that despite the government having enacted seven laws and some secondary legislative tools for managing business and industrial activities, many industries and plants did not follow the procedures on business authorisation, and carelessly released waste water and spent chemicals into the environment.

Alongside these issues, unregulated imports and distribution of substandard food products, drugs, beverages, and fake cosmetic items have been found to be proliferating throughout the country.

At the debate, NA member for Luang Prabang province, Mr. Thongchanh Manixay, raised his concerns about chemicals discharged by the Phu Bia mining project into a lake which allegedly contained millions of cubic metres of chemicals mixed water.

Mr. Thongchanh said he doubted whether mining companies in general did what they had promised in their written business proposals regarding the addressing of waste issues arising from their business activities.

They have provided detailed plans on addressing waste but they may want to avoid actually doing so because large amounts of money are required for waste treatment, he explained.

Mr. Thongchanh said that in the past Laos did not have much expertise in this field for inspecting every step of construction so problems had arisen after operations had begun and the impacts were already large in scale.

NA member for Khammuan province, Mr. Bounpan Duanglaty, said he observed that inspections of business activities were casual, saying inspection teams from the government mainly visited and met with project officials in meeting rooms and at steering panels but not in the places or communities that the projects were affecting.

In meeting rooms, project officials introduce teams only to the good features of their project, he said.

Mr. Bounpan told the session of his concerns about the impacts of mining projects in Khammuan, especially three big companies operating in potassium extraction, which he said took place over almost the whole of Nongbok district, which provides the major farming and food sources in the province.

He suggested that the sector responsible coordinate with other sectors of the government and the National Assembly.

Information about the benefits and impacts that certain projects will offer or cause should be explained to communities before the projects begin, Mr. Bounpan added.

He also suggested that some small activities be piloted before granting permission for large-scale operations as a means of better assessing their potential impacts.

NA member for Attapeu province, Mr. Maniso Xamounty, raised his concerns about the failures in investment management, saying investors were allowed to make deals on land concessions with communities directly, which he said caused economic, social, and environmental impacts.

Investors did not pay tax to the government or concession fees to communities on time, taking advantage of local residents with regard to employment, he said.

 

Source: Vientiane Times