Two Chinese-owned cement factories in the Vang Vieng district of Laos’ Vientiane Province are covering approximately 900 local families in at least four villages with dust and smog, threatening their health, local sources say.
The affected villages of the northwestern province include Khanmark, Houa Ngam, Phonesoung and Markkham.
Villagers say that trucks hauling stones to the factories throughout the day are kicking up dust, which has a negative effect on the air quality in and around houses along the roads. This is compounded by other kinds of dust created during the cement production process.
Pollution from the factories themselves is also a serious problem.
“[The two cement plants] are always in operation, so the impact of their smog is unavoidable,” a villager told RFA’s Lao Service.
“High ranking officials once came to investigate the impact of the smog blown through our villages, but so far, nothing has been done to address the problem,” he said.
“The latest update is that 900 families are affected by the dust and smog spewed from these cement plants,” the villager added.
The government has said it would take measures to suspend cement production if the plant owners are unable to find a solution.
An official of Vang Vieng’s Urban Development Agency told RFA, “The terrible road dust and [factory] smoke are outstanding problems that negatively impact villagers’ health.”
On Nov 26, Sommad Pholsena, Laos’ minister of natural resources and environment said during a session of the National Assembly, “The cement plant owners [are responsible for] exposing the mountain’s stones and I think we must press these Chinese developers to guarantee that the smog these factories release be at a standard level.”
“If they can’t do this, they must be stopped so that we can protect the beautiful nature [of Laos],” he added.
The Chinese firms operating the plants were not identified.
Meanwhile the villagers have simultaneously been suffering from the stench of a nearby trash dump, which has been a problem since 2016.
“We would like the government to find a solution for the dump. It should be removed because it is too close to the villages,” another villager said.
Minister Pholsena agrees.
“The military [in the area] made complaints about the dump and all its flies, and I have reported the issue to members of the National Assembly. I said that Vang Vieng district has no land, so I think the best solution is to create another dump [elsewhere],” he said
The 3.5 hectare dump lies near Khanmark village, and must accommodate 25 tons of garbage each day, according to the Urban Development Agency official.
Local media reported that on Apr 27, Deputy Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone traveled to Vang Vieng district to document the extent of the pollution and to try to find a solution, as the district is a popular tourist destination.