28 November 2009

The Golden Cycle

Leaving for my second trip to Na Nong Bong, I was excited to return to a village that has struck me in a certain way that none of the others have. On a near by mountain, a company known as Tung Khum Limited has been operating a mine for a number of years now. The mining process has [allegedly ed.] affected the environment and water sources of the surrounding areas. This includes the ground water that the people of the surrounding villages use to drink, wash dishes, and bath in. Na Nong Bong being the closet to the [claim that the ed.] mining site, [has caused ed.] severe health affects and reduces crop yields in their fields. This has lead them to take measure against the mine in hopes that their way of life may be restored to the extent where they do not have to worry unnecessarily about the basic human rights of water, health , and a proper environment.

The first time that I went to Na Nong Bong, the village was in the midst of excitement. They were about to protest a vote that would extend the current mine that is severely affecting their livelihoods to another part of the mountain, furthering the risk that was involved with the mining process. We were witness to the preparation, act and then success afterward. The more I learned about the situation, the more I was impressed by their passion to push for their livelihoods.

Coming back to Na Nong Bong, there were no protests, but the sense of the community and passion to maintain their livelihoods was still very apparent. I was incredibly struck by the villager’s ability to keep up the fight. Personally, I had my doubts about what the people of the village could actually accomplish. The mining company has made a large effort to slip through cracks in the political bureaucracies and make a solid effort to disprove the rather obvious effects of the mine, that it seemed like the viscous cycle that normally occurs in the realm of development was continuing. The demands of the many are out weighing the needs of the view.

The cycle seemed as if it was going to occur in this community as well. One thing that I thought to myself was if I am getting discouraged over the issue, then how could the villagers, the people that live with it on a day to day basis really work past it. It seems as if everything was working against them. The first issue that I made note of is the health aspect. Proper health is obviously an essential part of having a proper life. Without proper health, one cannot work, and if one cannot work, one cannot properly provide for their families. In the case of Na Nong Bong, chemical poisoning, and irritation has caused problems for the people in the village. However, the government and the mining company some how find a way around each and every medical problem that happens. They have even gotten a hold of the ministry of provincial health, an entity that should in all honesty know better and understand the problems that are being caused. Yet again the few are suffering for the demands of the many. To what extent can this really be acceptable.

When will our own lust for more demand be outweighed by the lives of the few? It seems like a fairly blatant resolve, however in reality it’s not so black and white. At some point the people’s lives have to outweigh the benefits…. right?

Sagar Pathak
Northeastern University

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