Ensuring a safe environment
With the advent
of the open economy and the boom in industries little or no
attention was paid to their impact on the environment. At the
time the Government driven by its pledge to provide mass
employment paid no attention to how this was done. Industries
started mushrooming all over the metropolis.
A majority of these ventures were put up haphazardly with no
thought to environmental consequences. There were complaints of
pollution of rivers and waterways by the discharge of chemical
waste by certain industries. But the Government could not afford
to take action lest they put up shutters throwing thousands out
of jobs. Besides environment laws were in their nascent stage
and pollution went by default. Phenomenons such as global
warming had yet to make their impact in these parts of the
However the problem aggravated over the years and has today
reached serious proportions.
According to our main story yesterday nearly 7,000 industrial
ventures belonging to all categories are found to be operating
without the Environment Protection Certificate which is
compulsory under the National Environment Act. The certificate
is issued by the CEA to Companies after assessing their
operational procedure to ensure these companies comply with
environmental regulations and set guidelines. Legal action has
been initiated against 100 industries in the Western Province
With growing industrialization of the country there is a
likelihood of the problem aggravating further. Today the post
war development boom has seen a steady growth of industrial
activity. While a majority of the industries may have complied
with environmental requirements, as our report indicates there
are also sizable numbers who have flouted the law.
Today we see land filling everywhere to set up industrial
ventures. These lands more often than not are marshy lands that
play the role of retaining rainwater thus preventing flooding.
What is more, roadways too have been cut across these marshy
lands to allow access to these industries. More and more of
these watersheds are being filled up or earmarked for building
upon. The recent unprecedented flooding even in areas that had
never experienced floods before, illustrates the gravity of the
The CEA should not confine itself to mere policing of
environment pollution. It should actively engage itself in
preventing the ‘sponge’ land from being reclaimed for industrial
ventures. In fact it should act to prevent all illegal
constructions in our nature reserves.
According to our report the CEA certificate is given to
companies after assessment of operations with regard to
contamination and general risks. This is a procedure adopted
after the setting up of the company. However special attention
should be paid as regards the siting of the companies to begin
with. For, the massive destruction caused as a result of
flooding bears no comparison to any immediate environmental
hazard. Therefore the CEA should co-ordinate with the Lands
Ministry, the UDA or whatever agency responsible for sanctioning
land for industrial ventures to ensure their locating sites
would not result in further aggravation of natural disasters
such as floods.
Measures should also be taken to halt noise pollution. Today
the din and racket caused by heavy industries have become more
than a major irritant to the general public. It has interfered
with their daily existence. Some of these heavy industries are
located in highly residential areas disrupting normal life.
The numerous complaints one reads today in the public columns
in newspapers is reflective of the prolonged suffering endured
by communities due to noise pollution caused by these heavy
industries which intrudes into children’s school homework and
also aggravating health problems of the old and the sick. No
doubt most of these industries have come up with political help
and thus no action is taken.
The Government should not hesitate to act against industries
that violate environmental laws and guidelines. True, these
ventures may be providing employment but they cannot be allowed
to flout the law and carry on with impunity. It has to look at
the larger picture and assess the harm caused as a result of
noise pollution and its impact on community well-being.
The licences should be revoked of those heavy industries who
continue to be a public nuisance. Ideally all such heavy
industries should be relocated away from residential areas where
they not be a hindrance to the public. It is hoped that when
drawing up its development plans for the future this aspect
would receive the serious attention of the Government.