Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) this week suspended Kigali Leather Factory, located in Bugesera District, over polluting Akagera River.
The plant lacks waste water treatment facility, among other amenities, Saturday Times has learnt.
Since its inception in 2014, residents have been complaining about the pollution yet the factory didn’t find solutions to it.
Eng. Coletha Ruhamya, the Director General of REMA, told Saturday Times that the suspension was as a result of complaints from neighbouring residents.
“The factory management showed us that they built a waste treatment system but it was just a shell that did not work. Instead, they clandestinely buried a pipe hidden underground discharging waste water and other waste directly into Akagera River,” she said.
“They lied to us and it is even a crime that should attract police investigations”.
She said the factory was given guidelines by the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) to build a waste water treatment plant but did not.
REMA and National Industrial Research and Development (NIRDA) sent a team to the factory to investigate the pollution allegations and subsquently decided to suspend the factory until they get a waste water treatment plant.
Refused to pay fines
“We fined them Rwf5 million but they have not yet paid. The chemicals from industries and those from tanning skins pollute water and cause health complications, including cancers and other incurable diseases,” she said adding that they had warned them several times.
Saturday Times has learnt that, on Tuesday, the factory wrote a letter requesting the reduction in fines and temporarily opening the operations.
However, Ruhamya said that the fines are set by law and were in fact the lowest defined by the law.
“They even refused to remove that hidden pipe which was discharging effluents into the river,” she added.
Factory manager speaks out
Yuan Wang, the Managing Director of Kigali Leather, told Saturday Times that they had written to REMA seeking temporary measures until the treatment plant is established.
“We have ordered for the equipment which cost $500,000 and it is expected to arrive in July,” he said.
He added that the suspension was affecting operations as they are making fewer shoes and bags. In February this year, the manager had said that the low supply of skins had led to low production.
They had the capacity to process 10 tonnes of hides per day but were processing less than seven.
He said in one week they can produce more than 3,000 pieces of wet blue leather and 1,500 finished leather.
The factory produces between four and five tonnes of finished leather per day and had plans to increase production to up to 20 tonnes per day.
National Industrial Research and Development Agency, Rwanda Cleaner Production Center, Rwanda Agricultural Board and Rwanda Standards Board have embarked on a training programme for factories and SMEs in leather manufacturing to adopt cleaner production technologies.
Kampeta Sayinzoga, the Director General of NIRDA, recently said that the clean technologies will both protect environment and reduce production cost.
Some of the clean technologies needed include waste water treatment, reusing and recycling of waste water, solid waste and waste heat, energy conservation, efficient use of water, replacing toxic or harmful materials with less toxic, renewable materials among others.
Steven Niyonzima, the coordinator of Rwanda Clean Production Center under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, said that, from 2008 to 2016, industries that had adopted efficient and clean production technologies had saved $2.8 million, and reduced 3,288 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year and 131,358 cubic meter of waste water. He added that 7,256 tonnes of solid waste was recycled and reused.