The prime minister told the assembly’s ordinary session, which is still ongoing, that the government has issued an order that imposed the ban after learning of severe environmental impacts caused by the use of hazardous chemicals on these farms, which is causing suffering among communities in the northern provinces.
He said he and his men had toured some affected areas to investigate the issue following complaints by villagers, after which the ban was ordered.
The government was taking stricter action on the issue, the prime minister said. “Provincial governors are aware of the order and several provinces have implemented it.”
Thongloun said investors had committed to quit the farms but were appealing to be allowed to harvest their last banana crops before they do so.
He called for assembly members to keep a close eye on the matter and bring it to the discussion table with provincial governors if they see further plantations being established despite the ban.
The premier acknowledged that in places where chemicals had been used on bananas, the soil had become compacted and infertile.
Additionally, chemical leaks into nearby rivers had killed livestock and made villagers scared to bathe or take water from rivers and streams.
The premier told parliament that the government was also taking tougher action to regulate manufacturing plants and that those which were responsible for high levels of pollution had been ordered to shut down.
“The government will always have measures in place to address such issues completely as it’s truly impacting the people and environment,” he said.
However, an assembly member for Oudomxay province, Pan Noimany, said local authorities had found it difficult to implement the banana plantation prohibition order because contract farming arrangements had been made between investors and farmers and detailed measures were needed to resolve them.
He said that if plantation businesses were ordered to stop completely, the investors could use the move as justification to avoid paying land leases and wages to the contracted farmers.
In addition, if investors leave without clearing the cultivated farms, Pan said removing banana roots from large farms would prove to be a time-consuming burden for local villagers.
“Recovering land to make it become fertile again is another burden,” he said, referring to the unfertile soil caused by chemical usage.
“But if we allow them [the investors] to continue, we will have long term impacts.”
Pan suggested the relevant bodies should conduct a study to identify detailed measures so that businesses could be shuttered in an appropriate way.
ASIA NEWS NETWORK