Laos: Chinese-operated banana farms leave little land for residents; environmental damage is a growing concern

The Lao government has, in the past years, granted land concessions to Chinese companies operating banana farms around the country. Concerns about shrinking land areas for local food production and environmental damage caused by chemical run-off of fertilisers used in the farms are growing.


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5 March 2019

Laos: Locals complain about shrinking land for food farming and pollution caused by Chinese-operated banana farms

Author: Sidney Khotpanya & Richard Finney, Radio Free Asia

"Chinese Banana Plantations in Lao District Leave Locals with Little Land to Farm," 05 March 2019

Concessions of land made by the government of Laos to Chinese banana farms are leaving villagers in one northern district without enough land of their own to feed their families...

“In Beng, the government has set a target for this year of 12,760 hectares for the cultivation of rice, and state authorities have fixed irrigation systems for three big projects and in five different areas. And though local farmers normally need at 12,156 hectares to feed their families, only 3,593 hectares are really available.”

Concerns over chemical run-off from the heavily polluting Chinese plantations led in...2017 to government orders forbidding new Chinese farms from being formed in the country’s northern provinces, but many still operate under contracts valid for several more years.

“Many have contracts that will expire in 2020 or 2021,” the source said. “And some may be allowed to operate even longer if they promise to grow something other than bananas.”

As Chinese plantations encroached on district land over the years, some villagers sought work on the farms but left after being sickened by pesticides, while others left to find work in other provinces but returned to grow vegetables on plots of land too small to grow rice...

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3 June 2018

Laos: Banana workers sickened by chemicals used on Chinese-owned farms; pregnant workers especially at risk

Author: Radio Free Asia

"Lao Banana Workers Sickened by Chemicals Used on Farms", 30 May 2018

Lao workers at Chinese-operated banana plantations are falling ill in large numbers from exposure to chemicals used on the farms, with many suffering from respiratory or liver problems....

Lao government orders began closing down the environmentally destructive farms....

..."The chemicals affected their health after they had worked for even six months or one to two years in the fields," RFA's source said.... "Now they have liver problems, and are chronically tired and fatigued when they come to us, sometimes with related diseases."

Pregnant women working in the fields are especially at risk from chemical exposure....

...In a 2016 Laos's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, six Lao farm workers died of pesticide or herbicide inhalation during the period 2012 to 2015, with three deaths reported in Champassak province....

...Illnesses and deaths have long been reported among Lao workers exposed to chemicals on foreign-owned farms, with many suffering open sores, headaches, and dizzy spells....

Chemical run-off from farms has also polluted many of the country's water sources, killing fish and other animals and leaving water from local rivers and streams unfit to drink....

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Author: Juarawee Kittisilpa, Matthew Tostevin, & Clarence Fernandez, Reuters

"Laos prime minister concerned over banana plantations", 2017年5月15日


总理通伦·西苏里(Thongloun Sisoulith)表示,政府已经采取行动解决这个问题…“自去年以来,鉴于化学污染的危害,我已签发命令,禁止投资者承包更多的土地新建香蕉种植园。” 他说,化学品的使用导致疾病,并造成水源污染。但通伦并没有提及,老挝是否会采取行动处理现有的香蕉种植园。中国是老挝的最大投资国。中国在这个650万人口的国家投资了760多个项目,总金额约为67亿美元…

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Author: Juarawee Kittisilpa, Matthew Tostevin, & Clarence Fernandez, Reuters

"Laos prime minister concerned over banana plantations", 2017年5月15日


總理通倫·西蘇里(Thongloun Sisoulith)表示,政府已經採取行動解決這個問題…“自去年以來,鑑於化學污染的危害,我已簽發命令,禁止投資者承包更多的土地新建香蕉種植園。 ” 他說,化學品的使用導致疾病,並造成水源污染。但通倫並沒有提及,老撾是否會採取行動處理現有的香蕉種植園。中國是老撾的最大投資國。中國在這個650萬人口的國家投資了760多個項目,總金額約為67億美元…

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14 May 2017

Laos: Prime minister voices concern over chemical contamination in Chinese-run banana farms

Author: Juarawee Kittisilpa, Matthew Tostevin, & Clarence Fernandez, Reuters

"Laos prime minister concerned over banana plantations", 15 May 2017

The prime minister of Laos has voiced concern over widespread chemical usage on banana plantations after a Reuters report on Chinese-run farms in the Southeast Asian country.

Reuters reported that while the banana boom had brought economic benefits to the impoverished region, there was also strong concern at the use of chemicals - including the herbicide paraquat, which is banned in Laos.

The government had already been taking action to tackle the problem, Thongloun Sisoulith said... 

"Since last year, I have ordered a prohibition on renting out more agricultural land for banana plantations to investors because of the damage from chemical contamination."

He said the use of chemicals had made farmers sick and contaminated water sources.

Thongloun did not say whether Laos would take action against the existing banana plantations.

China is the biggest foreign investor in Laos, a landlocked country of 6.5 million people, with more than 760 projects valued at about US$6.7 billion...


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15 April 2017

Laos: Govt. shuts down Chinese-owned banana plantations over chemical contamination; illnesses and deaths reported

Author: Ounkeo Souksavanh, Radio Free Asia

"More Chinese-owned Banana Plantations to Close in Laos", 12 April 2017

Lao government orders closing down environmentally destructive Chinese banana farms, first reported in...Bokeo province, are now in force in six other provinces...

The ban, which will shutter the commercial operations when their contracts expire and forbid new contracts from being signed, was conveyed by provincial authorities in Phongsaly, Luang Prabang, Xayaboury, Bokeo, Luang Namtha, Oudomsay, and Vientiane...

Provincial authorities are now considering how to rehabilitate land contaminated by the heavily polluting plantations, an official of Phongsaly province’s natural resources and environment department told RFA.

“Authorities will not renew the investors’ contracts when those contracts expire, but will provide villagers with other occupations, because the banana plantations are damaging the environment and people’s lives,” the official said. 

Illnesses and deaths have long been reported among Lao workers exposed to chemicals on the Chinese-owned farms, with many suffering open sores, headaches, and dizzy spells...

Sixty-three percent of plantation workers in the country’s north reported falling ill over a six-month period, with 35 percent reporting illness during the same period in the country’s central and southern areas, according to a study last year by Laos’s National Agriculture and Forestry Institute.

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25 February 2016

Laos: Opposition to Chinese investment grows as locals experience negative impacts, such as illnesses in banana plantations

“The true cost of Laos’ banana plantations”, 10 Feb 2016

When Chinese businessmen offered to rent land from impoverished Laotian farmers the deal was too good to turn down. Thousands of hectares of ruined rice paddies and numerous life-threatening illnesses later, the true cost of banana plantations is finally being counted in northern Laos…

Such situations are feeding an anti-Chinese sentiment that is beginning to bubble over in Laos’ northern regions. Demonstrations are rare in tightly controlled Laos, but in August the residents of Sibounheung village took to the streets to protest when they faced displacement after their land was included in a 99-year concession for a private Chinese company to extend its hotel-casino complex. Perhaps surprisingly, the villagers were successful in stalling the plan….

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