On May 5 the Mon State government instructed the plant, which is owned by the military-linked Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Limited (UMEHL), to suspend operations until environmental reviews can be conducted. The company is accused of dumping waste into surrounding areas, and has failed to conduct several mandatory studies measuring its environmental and social impact on surrounding areas.
According to Dr. Min Kyi Win, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, the company did not conduct an Initial Environmental Examination, an Environmental Impact Assessment or an Environmental Management plan as required.
“The company has not properly dealt with the disposal of wastewater from the factory, and has not disclosed the environmental impact that the plant has on drinking water, so we will be distributing drinking water to surrounding villages for a few months,” the minister said.
Methylated spirit is a general-use alcohol that is mixed with methanol to prevent people from drinking it. It has a variety of industrial and medical uses but is, by design, toxic to consume.
The Mon State Parliament (Hluttaw) Environment Conservation Committee launched an investigation into the plant after Bilin residents alerted them to problems. The residents complained about an odor in the area and the release of wastewater, which prompted the committee to begin compiling a report. The report was then submitted to the state parliament and cabinet, according to Dr, Khin Naing Oo, a representative from Bilin Township, and chairman of the Environment Conservation Committee.
“We submitted the report to the speaker of the Hluttaw, who passed it along to the cabinet. The cabinet then had a discussion about what emergency actions to take, both in the short term and in the long term. They began reviewing the report as soon as they received it” he said.
Residents of the area surrounding Kanbe fisheries said they experienced vomiting and dizziness from breathing in fumes from the plant, and others said they could not grow anything on their land because wastewater had seeped in, according to a resident who lives in Kanthayar Quarter.
“By the time they closed the factory it was too late. The entire Kanbe fisheries is now totally destroyed and people around the factory can’t drink water from lakes or wells,” he added.
If the factory’s owners want to reopen, they will need to submit all missing impact assessments to the Mon State government.