Laos: Govt. to enforce ban on new banana plantations due to overuse of chemicals reported to cause deaths & illnesses

Author: Sidney Khotpanya & Joshua Lipes, Radio Free Asia, Published on: 18 May 2019

"Lao Government Vows to Enforce Ban on Concessions for New Banana Plantations", 14 May 2019

The government of Laos has vowed to enforce a ban on the granting of land for new banana plantations and punish local officials who violate it, amid a controversy over the illegal overuse of pesticides that residents say are causing pollution and destroying their livelihoods.

Concerns over chemical run-off from heavily polluting Chinese-owned banana plantations led in January 2017 to government orders forbidding new banana concessions, though many farms still operate under contracts valid for several more years.

But local officials have granted a number of firms land for new banana plantations in recent months, despite the government ban....

...Bounkhouang Khambounheuang, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry... “The government strictly maintains a ban on new banana farms in Laos and will punish those who violate the rules,” ...said, adding that unauthorized plantations will have their operations “put on hold or shut down.”

“The government position is to continue to enforce the ban. We will allow people to grow new crops according to clean agricultural practices, but not bananas.”

According to RFA investigations, Chinese investors were recently granted 300 hectares (740 acres) of land to grow bananas in Xayabury’s Fieng district, 500 hectares (1,235 acres) in Borikhamxay, and an undisclosed amount of land in Oudomxay—some of which is still being negotiated with local officials.

...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, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

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, sources say.

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