Arusha — ARUSHA, which was always described as one of the greenest cities in East Africa, is slowly but surely losing this status due to massive logging of trees by major textile firms.
Some of the major log users include A-to-Z which operates two textile factories in Kisongo and Unga-Limited as well as Sun-Flag Tanzania Limited which runs one in Njiro. The factories burn logs in order to steam up the giant boilers at their respective garment mills.
A visit to the textile factories here by the Minister of State in the Vice-President's Office (Environment), Mr Binilith Satano Mahenge has asked the Arusha-based textile mills to find alternative energy sources and put in place proper disposal of liquid waste products, which are harmful to the environment.
The minister ordered the two factories to immediately stop depleting forests through using timber products like firewood and tree logs as their sources of energy.
"You must employ the use of alternative sources of energy including coal, gas and electricity not logs as you are doing now and already people are complaining about disappearing trees whose logs end up at your factories," said Mr Mahenge who is the MP for Makete.
Mr Mahenge had just completed the inspection of 'A to Z' Textile Mills situated at Kisongo area and Sunflag Tanzania Ltd located in Themi Industrial Area.
The minister's inspection came barely few weeks when more than 3,000 residents of Matevesi area in Arusha marched to the A to Z Textile Mills of Kisongo claiming that the factory is discharging toxic waste into residential areas, hence posing a health risk to the people and their livestock.
Following the incidence, the Arusha District Commissioner, Mr John Mongela issued a seven-day ultimatum to the management of A to Z Textile Mill to ensure that the polluted water from the factory did not flow into residential areas.
And during the Minister's visit, Mahenge called on the factory to adhere to environmental standards or face closure and used the occasion to warn other factories in Arusha and the country at large to ensure that they take the issue of public health as their first priority.
For his part, the Executive Director of the National Environment Management Council (NEMC), Mr Bonaventura Baya commended the textile firms for creating employment opportunities for many, but insisted that environment conservation should take priority.
He revealed that NEMC was working to establish regulations that will ensure the textile industry adheres to the rules and regulations of environmental conservation including banning the use of logs.
A spokesperson of A-to-Z Mr Godwin Obed, claimed that the plant was in the process of changing from the using wood and adopting to coal as new source of energy though he did not state when this will be effected.
For years the two factories have been using firewood and logs from the forest located in Arusha-Rural as well as Meru Districts where forest cover is diminishing at alarming rate.
As for pumping industrial effluents into residential areas, Mr Obeid said the factory had ordered a water treating plant and A-to-Z was waiting for the machine to arrive.
Some workers at Sun-Flag, who preferred anonymity, divulged that they were usually surprised to see trucks bringing chopped logs during the night and wondered why the process has to wait until dark.
Minister Mahenge has given the Sub-Flag factory a three-month ultimatum for the factory to change its system. The factory has been using a large amount of logs for energy daily.
Recently 3,000 residents of Matevesi area marched to 'A to Z' Textile Mill claiming that the factory has failed to control the flow of chemically-contaminated water from the plant into residential areas hence posing a health risk to the people and their livestock.