The Irrawaddy

12 Factories to Be Sued for Polluting Mandalay Lake

Staff of Mandalay City Development Committee clearing dead fish from Mandalay’s Taungthaman Lake on Saturday. (Photo: Teza Hlaing / The Irrawaddy)

MANDALAY — Twelve factories in Mandalay’s Industrial Zone 2 are being sued by the Department of Fisheries for violating wastewater management regulations and polluting Taungthaman Lake.

A department official told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the factories ran afoul of Burma’s Fisheries Law, Act 38, by causing harm to livestock in freshwater areas.

“The wastewater entering Taungthaman Lake from the drains of these factories is about 70 percent polluted. Since these factories have no proper wastewater management and caused pollution, we decided to sue them and hold them responsible,” said Myo Aung, the director and chief officer of the fisheries department in Mandalay Division.

Factories producing fertilizer, soap, powdered detergent, leather and refined sugar, as well as a bottle cleaning plant and an alcohol distillery, are among the accused. An investigation that began on May 4 is still ongoing, the official said.

Some of the alleged polluters claimed they acted within regulations, lamenting that their business has suffered due to the allegations.

“Even though we have followed the instructions of the MCDC [Mandalay City Development Committee, the municipal governing body], we were sued,” Maung Aye, manager of the Kyar Min Gyi alcohol distillery, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

His and 16 other factories in the industrial zone were forced to suspend operations earlier this month after large numbers of dead fish were found washed up on the shore of Taungthaman Lake.

Fish farmers told authorities that business was suffering due to large amounts of pollution pouring out from the factories, prompting an investigation and a production hiatus.

Htoo Htoo Aung, owner of the Myat Khaing Sugar Refinery, said the suspension has had an unfair and severe impact on local businesses.

“It has been about two weeks now [since we stopped production], and our business is terribly affected,” she said. “We are now struggling to maintain our customers, we just want the authorities to check properly and act fairly.”

Workers have also felt the strain of the suspension, which has put about 1,000 employees temporarily out of work. Ko Soe, a general worker at one of the affected factories, told The Irrawaddy that he and his family have suffered since the factory shut down.

“We are now jobless,” he said, “Our boss helps us with some wages but they cannot help us forever because they are also facing hardship. Now I’m planning to run a motorcycle taxi until work resumes, to feed my family.”

Taungthaman Lake is located just outside Mandalay in Amarapura, and is the site of the famed U Pein bridge, a 1.2-kilometer (0.75-mile) teak structure that draws in crowds of foreign and domestic tourists throughout the year. It is also the site of a proposed 16-hectare (40-acre) resort slated for completion in 2018 at a projected cost of US$27 million.