EPA-SL SHUTS DOWN KABAKUDU SOAP INDUSTRY IN THE SOUTHERN REGION FOR NON-COMPLIANCE WITH ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS
At a high powered provincial Security meeting attended by the Honorable Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Honorable Ambassador Tamba J.S Lamina, the Executive Chairman of the Environment Protection Agency Dr. Bondi Gevao and representatives from other institutions including the Office of National Security, Local Councils, National Commission for Democracy, Civil Society, the Army and the Sierra Leone Police, a collective decision was taken to close all Kabakudu Soap production centers in the Southern Region.
This follows a complaint made by the Ministry of Environment and the Environment Protection Agency seeking the Minister’s intervention to help address these environmental and health risks.
Prior to this closure, the EPASL had sent series of pollution abatement notices to all local soap (Kabakudu) processing industries asking them to relocate their operations out of the city since their operations posed a serious threat not only to the environment but also on the health of people residing in communities where these operations were ongoing.
These abatement followed series of unproductive engagements with the leadership of the local soap producers and other relevant stakeholders to get them to relocate out of the city.
The Kabakudu Soap is locally produced from sodium hydrochloride which has significant health risks on human beings and the environment.
The activities of this industry violate section 58 (5) of the Environment Protection Agency Act of 2008 which states that “The discharge of any toxic and hazardous substance into the air or in, or under the land and waters of sierra Leone is prohibited” and Section 23 (2) states that operating illegally without a valid Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) License also amounts to a violation. It is required by law as per the EPA Act that for any one or group to engage in any of the activities that fall under the first schedule of the Act, an Environmental Social Health Impact Assessment (ESHIA) study must be conducted to assess the possible environmental and social health impacts that may be associated with such activities and the mitigation measures to be put in place to prevent or address them. This will enable the Agency to regulate their operations so that their activities will not significantly compromise the integrity of the environment and that of human health.
What was even more alarming about the activities of this soap making industry in Bo was the unfavorable conditions in which the production was done, thereby posing grave health risks to people.
All the Soap Processing centers were situated within residential areas with people exposed to air pollution as a result of open burning of palm oil, oil spillage, toxic and hazardous chemicals.
The workers in these Kabakudu manufacturing centers carry out their work under circumstances that render them so prone to a lot of health hazards like skin cancer, lung diseases, impotency etc.
A good number of residents in Bo rely on borehole water courses to carry on with their domestic activities. These borehole water courses have been polluted (many now unusable) due to the toxic chemicals used in the production process.
The Executive Chairman of the Environment Protection Agency Dr. Bondi Gevao, who also representented the Minister of Environment, stated that the Agency was not against development or businesses but that they must not be done at the expense of the environment and human health. He added that all owners of Kabaudu production centers must be responsible for the decommissioning of their soap manufacturing centers and rehabilitate degraded areas.
Dr. Gevao encouraged the soap manufacturers to contact the Agency if they wanted to continue with their activities, adding that it is only when their activities are regulated by the EPA that their operations would be deemed to be legal. It is important to note, however, that acquisition of an EIA license is not as of right. Whether or not an applicant deserves an EIA license would depend on the nature and location of the operations to be undertaken as well as their impact on the environment and human health. The Sierra Lone police have enforced a communiqué signed by all relevant stakeholders including local councils, the paramount chief of kakua chiefdom, and civil society requesting the immediate closure of all Kabakudu Production centers.