Locals call for the shutdown of antimony factories in Mon State if the government fails to control the factories’ air pollution

May 15, 2018

HURFOM: On May 4, 2018, local people from Mawlamyine, Mon State called for the government to shut down Myanmar Shin Shin Antimony Purifying Factory and Myanmar San Zaw Antimony Purifying Factory in the Industrial Zone of Nyaung Pin Seik Ward, Mawlamyine, citing the factories’ air pollution.

At a consultation meeting with members of Mon State government, officials from government departments and the above-mentioned companies on May 4, local representatives said that the government should shut down the factories if they could not control the bad smell the factories emitted .

Local people explained that the factories have been using coal-fired energy to purify low-quality antimony.

“We’ve accepted that there are varieties of bad smells in the industrial zone. We can tolerate smell from the other factories but the smell emitted from the antimony factories is worse. Even the children can’t tolerate it. We have to run away (from the smell). So we request (the government) to stop or control the bad smell. If they can’t control it, we demand that they shut down the factories,” said U Thant Zin, a local resident.

Locals told us that the smells emitted from the factories are like rotten eggs or acid burning. Moreover, particles emitted from the factories have also dropped into water wells and pools and locals have been worried that the particles would harm their health.

“The smells are really bad. If we inhale too much, it causes tachycardia and nausea. It dries our mouth and we feel thirsty, headaches and dizziness. After inhaling the smell, we want to do nothing(feel exhausted). We can’t tolerate the smell. I want them to shut down the factories,” said Daw Myint Myint Aye,a local resident.

An official from Myanmar Shin Shin Antimony Purifying Factory responded, “There are lots of factories in this industrial zone and varieties of smells have been emitted from them. If the locals think the smell is emitted from our factory, we invite them to come to our factory and have a look. They can also call us and ask questions. We are ready to explain. We always try to get better results. I think we should check the air quality around every single factory. To know exactly which factory emits the bad smell, the other factories must be closed when checking our factory.”

“We would like to control the bad smell rather than shut down the factories. The factories should be closed for a while to correct the bad smells. If there is no bad smell after correction, it doesn’t matter if (the government) allows the factories to operate forever. The main point is (to control) the smell. We don’t want to destroy their profit and we don’t want to deduct from the tax receipts of our country. We just want to solve the people’s problem,” said U Bo Bo Win from “Bo Bo Win Rescue Team”.

All businesses must be run in accordance with the law, and businesses that do not follow the rules and regulations must be punished, said Dr Min Kyi Win, the Mon State Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.

“The people use their voices and point out what should be done. We also have principles and policies. The particular government departments have to file reports. But shutting down the factories is the last resort,” said Dr Min Kyi Win.

Air quality meters have shown different results. Sometimes the air quality was above the safe limit for air pollution and sometimes it stayed below the limit, according to U Soe Nyne, the Deputy Director of the Director Office of Mawlamyine District Environmental Conservation Department.

“We’ve measured the smoke emitted from the chimneys of the factories. After the smoke has dissolved into the atmosphere, the meter shows different results. Some measurements indicate the air condition is above the limit. Iron melting factories in the industrial zone have used coal-fired energy. Sometimes, there were smells of burning chilly, rubber and curry powder. We shouldn’t target only the big business. We must be fair. We must take every single condition into account,” said U Soe Nyne.

“In the past [under the previous government], shutting down and re-opening the factories had happened alternately. Local people had felt faint after inhaling excess amount of bad smells and the factories had been closed. But after the new government came into power, they’ve temporarily allowed the factories to operate again and the locals have again been suffering the effects,” said U Zaw Zaw Han.

On November 11, 2017, Myanmar San Zaw Company Ltd., asked the government for permission to re-open their antimony-purifying factory as a pilot project and on December 7, 2017, the Mon State government granted permission for the factory to be re-opened under the supervision of the Mon State Environmental Conservation Department.

Similarly, Myanmar Shin Shin Company Ltd., also got permission to re-open their factory, according to the Director Office of the Mon State Environmental Conservation Department.

“Even if they just re-open their factories as a pilot project, we have to undergo too much suffering. If they got permission to operate permanently, we would rather die first,” said local resident U Hla Kyi.

U Soe Nyne, the Deputy Director of Mawlamyine District Environmental Conservation Department, said the government plans to use air quality meters to measure the smoke emitted from the factories’ chimneys. Dr Min Kyi Win said that after cooperating with particular departments of the Mon State government, these problems would be filed to the Union Government.

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