Cambodia 1999. An Ill-Blessing

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This Child and many others live in a constant threat of diseases and extreme health hazards

The disposal of our Waste is a very important activity to our Living. It determines how Healthy and Concerned we are about our wellbeing and that of the Environment. Even determining how Humane we can be.
For example, the practise of shipping away hazardous and toxic waste to less-developed countries still continues- illegally. Despite the bans and scorns from the international communities across the world.

I encountered the story below as an Environmental Concern in one of the many Environmental Science texts I’ve read.

Case #2.

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Local people unloading waste from a dump site. Photo credit: Ezra Acayan

In 1999, 3000 tons of incineration waste from a Plastics factory in Taiwan was unloaded from a ship in the middle of the night and dumped in a field near the small coastal Cambodian village of Bet Trang. The village residents thought they had been blessed with a Windfall. They emptied out chunks of crumbling residue so they could use the white plastic shipping bags as bedding and roofing material. They rinsed out bags to use for Rice storage, and they ripped them open with their teeth to get String to use as Clotheslines and lashing for their Oxcarts. Children played happily on the big pile of dusty, white stuff.

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Photo Credit: Enrico Fabian.

In the following weeks, the villagers discovered that rather than a treasure, they had a calamity. Deaths ensued from poisoning, and five others were hospitalised with symptoms of nerve damage and respiratory distress. Villagers also began to complain of a variety of illnesses. The village was evacuated, and about 1,000 residents of the nearby city of Sihanoukville fled in panic. Subsequent analysis found high levels of mercury and other toxic metals in the residue. The Formosa Plastics Corp. , which shipped the waste, admitted paying a $3 million bribe to Cambodian officials to permit it’s dumping.

How best do we dispose off our Waste? And how bad have we been doing that?

Story Source:
Environmental Science: A Global Concern.. William and Mary Ann Cunningham; Barbara Saigo.

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