Manufacturer, residents lock horns over pollution claims
A row is brewing between residents and a manufacturer over claims of pollution in Athi River.
The residents, in a letter to the Machakos County National Environment Management Authority (Nema) director, accuse Saj Ceramics of polluting the air and not doing enough to mitigate emissions from the factory.
The letter signed by 96 residents reads in part, “We note that the said factory has been burning coal or a related mineral as one of their raw materials in ceramics manufacturing, part of which is currently heaped within the factory premises.”
The residents further claim that emissions from the factory have noxious foul smell denying them the right to enjoy “a clean and healthy environment.”
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They also claim, “globally, air pollution from coal burning is linked to asthma, cancer, heart and lung ailments, neurological problems, acid rain, global warming, and other severe environmental and public health impacts.”
Johnstone Kimanzi, a resident, says the factory mainly operates at night releasing toxic gas into the air.
“They only burn at night between 11pm and 2am such that by the time morning comes, there is a lot of soot that settles on clothes, utensils and furniture,” says Kimanzi.
But the company has denied the allegations terming them malicious.
Saj Ceramics managing director, Atul Parmar, says the allegations are unfounded, as the company is situated in a designated industrial zone and applies the best practices in production.
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In December, the company brought in an expert from India to carry out an environmental audit. This, Parmar clarifies that the company has been initiating environmental audits which it files with Nema.
“The only issue that we were notified about by the auditors was the heavy emissions of carbon dioxide above normal in the coal burning area,” says Parmar.
The issue which the company says it rectified was the high particulate matter which was 531 above the recommended 400 limit and has since dropped to 296.
The company further argues that if the residents’ claims were true workers would be suffering from respiratory problems.
Parmar says, “Our employees here go for regular health checks and we have the files of each; if it were true that the emissions were above normal, then our workers here would be the first to get sick.”
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Agnes Maina the manager at 67 Airport Hotel Athi River states that nobody wants the factory to fold up but to manage the emissions.
“We are not satisfied that they are managing their waste efficiently and this is why there are all these complaints and it is true that we have a lot of smell and emissions courtesy of the factory,” reiterates Ms Maina.
Parmar argues that Nema held a meeting with the company management and found no wrong-doing as far as emissions are concerned. He also denied allegations that the factory runs 24 hours and closes only for maintenance during the Christmas and New Year festivities.