It was on Monday of December 07th, 2009 where one of Tanzania’s national news WebPages; www.thecitizen.co.tz had deeply highlighted the headline reading “Reopening of oil plant sparks storm” ……actually from this title different perceptions can be derived but for a person who is dreaming to get a job in big and outstanding industry like this would certainly admit it was a “good” news to him/her. On my side I will admit to focus something of different kind!!
While going through this reading the issue is seen as multifaceted, contradictory and challenging one. Literally weak/poor assessment upon economic value and environmental integrity in relation to the project existence is one of the basic image/picture that came in my mind: - For example; while reopening of the oil plant has rescued 150 employment positions lost after the first lockdown of the plant, but on the other side without proper sewage treating system as unsolved problem, the plant will continue spilling caustic soda into farms and water sources/catchment areas in which this is not only jeopardizing the life of the people but extremely harmful to the environment.........IT'S TIME FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CSOs AND OTHER PARTNERS TO DUG UP THE ROOT COURSES OF ALL THESE AS SEEN TO BE EMBRACED WITH ALL NEMC'S HANDS whether Political Interest is "IN" or "OUT!!"
Below here I have attached the article that I made comments on as it was published in the citizen’s news page www.thacitizen.co.tz .
Reopening of oil plan sparks storm
By Anthony Mayunga, Bunda
An environmental activist is up in arms over the decision by the National Environment Management Council (Nemc) to allow Bunda Oil Industries Limited resume operations before constructing a sewerage treatment plant.
He called on the relevant state organs to investigate the council for making decisions that were "harmful to the environment and public health".
The cooking oil processing mill is spilling caustic soda into farms, residential areas and the Kyandere catchment area, which serves as a water source to Migungani, Butakare and Tairo areas.
A lawyer-cum-human rights activist from the Lawyer?s Environmental Action Team (Leat), Mr Tundu Lisu, accused Nemc officials of caring for their own interests, contending that the council had performed poorly in enforcing the environmental law.
"The law used to close the factory gives Nemc the mandate to take legal action, yet they have allow the factory to resume operation without a written document. What kind of a picture does such a verbal permission paint?" he queried in a telephone interview.
Mr Lisu explained that with the 2004 environmental law, Nemc could close a factory that was polluting the environment and direct the management to restore the environment and to compensate all those affected by the environmental damage.
"It's time community members stood up for their rights by marching to the factory to demand its closure. Nemc does not seem interested in protecting them," he said.
He was surprised that the Government was silent on the development.
A retired district commissioner, Mr Elias Misana, who serves as chairman of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Elders Council in Bunda District, said he was also surprised by the Nemc decision because the factory had not rectified the problems that led to its closure in the first place.
One of the residents whose crops have significantly been affected by the environmental pollution caused by the factory, Mr Kichere Gikaro, also blamed the state agency.
The chairman of the district council Committee on Finance and Environment, Mr Julius Maregeri, confirmed that the council had been kept in the dark.
"The Nemc officials should strike a balance between people?s lives and all those using water from Lake Victoria and profits accrued from the factory," he said.
The chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Lands, Natural Resources and Environment, Mr Job Ndugai, said he was not aware that the factory had resumed operation, as he was not served with any letter.
Nemc coordinator Anna Mdamo said her office was directed by the Government to allow the factory resume operation, lest workers of the factory lost their jobs. She said the decision was well intentioned. There are some 150 workers at plant.
The district environmental officer declined to comment.
Investigation at the factory, which was established in 1997, indicated that the factory had neither a sewerage treatment plant nor site for disposing solid waste.