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Legalbrief   |   your legal news hub Wednesday 29 January 2020

HRW flags ‘dirty investment’

The DRC’s largest agricultural employer has received millions of dollars from the development banks of four European countries – Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has noted that Plantations et Huileries du Congo (PHC) employs thousands of workers at its oil palm plantations. HRW is concerned that the workers are exposed to toxic chemicals, paid extremely low wages, or housed along streams of industrial waste. Researcher Luciana Téllez-Chávez who has produced a new report – A Dirty Investment – says the banks that finance these plantations see their mission as fostering sustainable development. ‘However, while their investment is indeed helping generate employment, the banks risk sabotaging their own mission by failing to ensure that PHC respects the basic rights of their workers and the environment they operate in.’ She accuses the company of dumping untreated, foul-smelling waste in rivers and next to workers' homes, a practice that appears to have contaminated the only drinking water source for hundreds of villagers downstream. ‘Half of the active ingredients in the pesticides PHC uses are considered hazardous by the WHO. Most have properties that cause skin problems and severe eye damage. One of the pesticides used could cause cancer, and Germany was planning to ban it by 2023,’ she added.