Inspired by CSR, major companies come to aid of lead mine victims

business August 17, 2014 01:00

By Tanpisit Leardbamrungchai

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Klity community still suffering from lack of clean drinking water

Sixteen years after the Lower Klity community’s canal was contaminated with lead from a now-closed mining operation, the Karen villagers are still forced to buy drinking water because their water sources remain poisoned.
The Lower Klity community is located 200 kilometres from Muang district in Kanchanaburi province.
Its distress has attracted the attention of several major Thai corporations now offering relief through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.
In January 2013, the Supreme Administrative Court ordered the Pollution Control Department (PCD) to pay Bt3.8 million in compensation to 22 affected villagers – about Bt170,000 per head – to rehabilitate their local environment. The PCD was also required to draw up a rehabilitation plan for tainted water, soil and plants and to monitor its implementation for a year until lead levels dropped to the standard level.
The PCD promised villagers the creek would be rehabilitated within three years, but today lead levels in the natural water sources still remain high.
“We divide our compensation payments into two types – Bt70,000 to be spent on our expansion, and Bt100,000 into a community fund,” said Kamthorn Srisuwanmala, who lives at the western Lower Klity.
From the Bt100,000 contributions, the community fund will total Bt2.2 million, with Bt1 million spent on mountain plumbing for drinking water, Bt1 million into an agriculture loan fun, and the remaining Bt200,000 into a health fund.
However, Kamthorn said the Bt1 million budget can build a mountain plumbing water plant of just three lines, enough for only 168 families out of the total 220 in the Lower Klity community.
“We need more budget to cover the western Lower Klity community that has a total of 52 families, including mine,” Kamthorn said.
Now some powerful supporters have entered the picture – Singha Corporation Group, Boonrawd Brewery and the Phraya Bhirom Bhakdi Foundation and Singha Asa or Singha Volunteers. They plan to build the mountain plumbing drinking water system for the remaining 52 families in the western end of the Lower Klity community.
Rangsarit Luksitanont, senior vice president of Boonrawd Brewery, said this scheme was one of the group’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects to provide clean water for Thai communities. Especially relevant to their planning was the Lower Klity community which had faced lead contaminated natural water for more than 19 years.
Also involved in the project are the Singha Volunteers, students from 20 education institutions, who are willing to help in part because one of their number was born at Lower Klity. Their project is to work on the mountain plumbing drinking water supply, he said.
Thanakit Tongfa, or Mik, a student member of the Singha Asa programme, was also born at Lower Klity and was brought up there until he moved to school in the city. He knows the water problems of his place of birth and the needs of the Karen who make up the community.
“I have proposed the projects to more corporations who have budget to help build the mountain plumbing until Singha Asa comes into the project,” Thanakit said.
“Over the 17 years since the natural water in the canal was contaminated with lead, this is the first time we can drink the water and not need to buy it from the food truck which visits the community two or three times a month,” Kamthorn said.
Sometimes when heavy rain delays the truck, people still resort to boiling and drinking the water contaminated by lead.