Sugar miller on the spot for polluting Lake Victoria waters
According to locals, the company has for the past one month been emptying raw waste into River Kibos, which is the main source of water for thousands of residents.
“Our effort to have the matter addressed by both the national and county governments have failed while we continue to suffer from the pungent smell and the contaminated water which poses a serious risk to our health and that of our animals,” said Mr John Okello, a resident.
Environment CS Keriako Tobiko is assuring residents that his ministry will take stern action against the factory if it is established that it is discharging dangerous chemicals into the river.
“Time is up for those who think that they are untouchable; no one will be spared,” the CS said during his tour of the region last week.
Kisumu Governor Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, while acknowledging that Kibos Sugar is facing critical challenges in handling its waste, underlined the need to take drastic steps for the matter to be solved once and for all.
“The truth of the matter is that they have been creating too many excuses and in the meantime residents, aquatic life and the environment is suffering,” he said.
According to Kisumu County Environment executive Salmon Orimba, investigations have established that the private sugar miller is releasing toxic chemicals to the river and causing a fertile ground for the mushrooming of water hyacinth in Lake Victoria.
“We have gone to their premises on a number of occasions and have found out that inadequately treated effluent is finding its way into River Kibos, which is causing devastating effects down stream,” said Mr Orimba.
A fact-finding mission by Nation has established that the factory has laid pipes under the water surface to conceal its activities as they discharge raw effluent into the river.
Environment and Land Court judge Stephen Kibunja last November ordered the temporary shutdown of the factory and suspended the Environmental Impact Assessment licence for contravening the provisions of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act, 1999.
This is after Mr Benson Adega, Mr Erick Ochieng and Ms Betha Opiyo moved to court to seek orders for the closure of the factory until it conforms with the law.
While Mr Chanan acknowledged that there was some ‘accidental’ spillage of the distillery’s industrial waste, the matter was later settled out of court after the parties reached an agreement.
However, Mr George Otieno, who neighbours the sugar miller, said the company has failed to adhere to proper waste disposal standards as pollution of the river keeps on recurring.
“The release of toxic chemicals has affected institutions like Kibos Primary School, Kibos Prison and Kibos School for the Blind which rely on the water for different uses,” said Mr Otieno.
“Until then, the locals will not be at peace when their only source of water is being contaminated by a company whose operation is expected to benefit the community,” he said.
“You either shape up or ship out. It is the company to move out if they cannot work within the laws to protect the well-being of locals,” Mr Koyoo said.
He also wants the company probed over workers’ poor working conditions. “The parliamentary committee on Labour and Social Security will visit the area to ascertain the complaints raised by residents,” he said.