5 November 2009

Uganda: Leather Factory Faces Closure Over Pollution

The National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) has ordered the immediate closure of Leather Industries Uganda Ltd, for alleged failure to adhere to the authority's guidelines.

The Jinja-based leather tanning industry is accused of choking the town with a lead-laden gaseous pollutant and discharging untreated effluent at the shores of Lake Victoria.

Ignoring guidelines

"They are flouting so many guidelines. We have been advising them and we have given them several chances to make things right but this time round there is nothing we can do for them, they just have to close," Nema's Executive Director Henry Aryamanya Mugisha said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

He said his office has received a legion of complaints lodged to the authority by residents regarding the foul smell emanating from the factory. The smell has hung over the town for the last couple of months.

"The pollution is very dangerous and is putting the people's health at risk," he said.

It was also discovered that channels have been dug to direct waste water to a wetland adjacent to Lake Victoria.

Environmental audit

An environmental audit of the factory in October revealed that the owners were ignoring a compliance agreement signed between them and Nema in March 2008.

However, the factory management denies violating any guidelines. "Some of the proposals were not commercially viable but still we upheld the essence of the guidelines and acted on the most crucial ones," the Factory Operations Manager, Mr Sanjoy Ghosh said.

He accused Nema of failing to give a pragmatic approach to the issue. "They should tell us that this is what and how we want you to do it instead of an arbitrary decision to close us down preemptively," he said.

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