Over 200 locals join protest march calling for the shutdown of antimony factories in Mon State

August 23, 2018

WCRP: On July 22nd 2018, over 200 people who live near the Mawlamyine industrial zone in Mon State joined a protest march calling for the shutdown of two antimony factories. The protesters said the factories’ air pollution is affecting locals’ health.

U Zaw Zaw Han, spokesperson for the demonstration, said locals had sent numerous letters to the Mon State government about the bad smell from the factories, but because nothing has happened the locals are protesting, calling on the government to shut down the factories. The protesters collected signatures during the protest, and they will send them to the president in ten days.

Locals have suffered because of the bad smell from the factories. It can affect our health. Many people in these areas can smell the bad smell, but the government says it doesn’t smell bad, and the smell only lasts for a few seconds. The [Mon] state government has not listened to our voice, and so we are protesting. After we finish collecting the signatures from the protest, we will send them to the president,” U Zaw Zaw said.

Locals told HURFOM that the smells emitted from the factories are like rotten eggs or burning acid. They suffered thirst, dizziness, and say that it affects the health of locals. In addition, bad water emitted from the factories destroys surrounding farmland. For these reasons the locals are calling for the factories to be shut down.

Locals accept that there are varieties of bad smells in the industrial zone. “The smells are really strange. After inhaling the smell, we feel thirsty. We know that there are a variety of bad smells in the industrial zone, and we can tolerate the other smells. One time, the government measured the smoke emitted from the antimony factories, but they did not measure the smell from the factory chimneys; they just left the machine outside,” said U Zaw Naing, the leader of the protesters.

Moreover, when the locals visited the antimony factories, they describe how there is no smell inside the factory, but the smell starts after they leave the factories.

U Zaw Oo added, “We don’t want to have these antimony factories in the industrial zone. The government allowed the factories to operate temporarily, but that was six months ago now, and the locals have been suffering the effects. The previous government shut down the factories four days after receiving our report about the smell. Now, we have been sending letters to the new government for the past six months but we have heard nothing from them.

When the Mon State government tested the air from the antimony factories, the air quality metres showed that the air was over the limit for air pollution. However, the government said we could not assume it was over the limit based on that test,” U Zaw Zaw Han.

We feel that the new government only represents the interests of the factories. They don’t even feel bad for us.”

The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Dr Min Kyi Win said that, “Regarding the complaint letters from the locals, we have tested the antimony factories twice with our equipment. We have sent the test results to the Mon State government. According to our measurements, the air quality metres have shown different results. Sometimes the air quality was above the safe limit for air pollution, and sometimes it stayed below the limit and is nothing to worry about.”

He added, “The smell of burning is not continuous for 24 hours. We have visited the factories to test the smell, and we only sometimes smelled this unique smell from the factories.”

The government instructed the factories to use air quality metres to measure the smoke emitted from the factories’ chimneys.

 

 

 

 

 

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