Dust row persists in Zimbabwe

Dust row persists in Zimbabwe
Published: 29 December 2009

A perennial cloud of dust hovers over Kugarika Kushinga houses, about 300 metres from Lafarge cement factory in Mabvuku. Furniture and walls alike are covered with a thick film of dust from the factory, leaving everything ghostly grey. To avoid dust entering their houses, residents rarely open windows.

For Lafarge, building the houses near the factory presented new challenges for the company as residents have persistently complained about the negative effects of its operations on their lives.According to some residents, Lafarge promised to give them milk to "dilute" the dust, but that has not happened. "The company gives its employees a packet of milk, but do not give us anything yet we live 300m from them.

However, officials from Lafarge gave a different perspective on the conflict. Business risk and compliance manager, Mr Andrew Gona said: "Corporate and social responsibility initiatives are fundamental core values that guide our work and the relationship between the organisation and its publics especially the residents of Mabvuku and Tafara." "We have seen the community encroaching on us, but we are doing everything possible to accommodate them. Our company has made every effort possible to reduce the effects of dust emissions from the plant to the community."

He said they have reduced dust emission from the plant by 80 per cent since the beginning of the year. "We accept that we still have a lot to do in as far as reducing the dust emissions is concerned and we are working on it," said Mr Gona.

He reiterated that sometimes the dust emissions are beyond their control since it is at its worst when there is electricity load shedding. He said the process they use to trap dust from the factory requires water and electricity. "If there is no water to cool down the dust from the furnaces, dust escapes from the plant in huge quantities.

But Mr Tapiwa Chapo, an environmental activist raised concern over the way the company deals with residents. Mr Chapo added that policymakers should impose stringent laws on pollution. Lafarge however is not the only company on the wrong side of the law as senior managers at the Midlands-based cement manufacturing company, Sino Zimbabwe, were recently summoned to a hearing by the Environmental Management Agency after failing to address concerns over pollution. The company, with an output of 700 tonnes of cement per day, was only reopened after management undertook to follow EMA’s recommendations.