Rwanda EnvironmentManagement Authority, (REMA) has shut down SteelRwa, a steel making factory for air pollution.
Coletha Ruhamya, REMA Director-General told Sunday Times that the Rwamagana-based plant was emitting harmful gases.
Ruhamya said the environmental protection body had warned the factory over pollution, but it did not heed the warning.
“People dwelling in the locality of the factory have been complaining about the harmful gasses until they petitioned parliament,” Ruhamya said.
“Emissions are harmful. People who dwell near the factory are exposed because they inhale them all the time,” she said.
Some of iron bars produced by SteelRwa at the factory in Rwamagana District in 2016. The factory was shut down over emitting gases such as carbon dioxide (courtesy)
She pointed out that when REMA made a spot check on Wednesday night, it found that the factory was emitting pollutants.
“We realised that when we inform [the factory managers] about our assessment visit they conceal the gases so we decided to visit them without notice,” she said.
“We endorse investments, but, we do not support investments that intoxicate Rwandans, or other people in general, leaving them suffering from diseases from toxic emissions,” Ruhamya said.
She said that the body tells investors to always make environmental impact assessment so that they take precautionary measures to mitigate such impact.
Ruhamya further added that the factory could be using some systems to control emissions during day but did not use at night as they want to cut electricity consumption costs, something she described as cheating.
Some of the people complained that they considered relocating their children to places free from the gases, adding that children, the elderly, and people with health problems are more affected by the gases than others because of their relatively low resistance level.
On the complaints from the residents that their children are coughing, Ruhamya said that there is a need for medical research to come up with evidence-based conclusion.
Confident Nzihonga, the Human Resource Manager at SteelRwa, said the emissions were unintentionally released in the night arguing that it resulted from a power cut.
“There was power cut for about 10 minutes, which made the chimney system unable to retain emissions because it was not powered. Emissions are bad, that’s why the factory set up the chimney to hold them,” he said.
“The closure of the factory implies a huge loss both for the factory and the 580 employees. However, we are not above law,’ he said adding that the factory management was waiting for instructions and requirements to meet so that it can carry on activities.
According to figures from the factory, it has the capacity to produce about 3,000 tonnes of iron bars per month.
Ruhamya pointed out that factories should comply with the laws and instructions put in place to regulate emissions, pointing out that there should be continued awareness and environmental impact assessment, as well as its implementation.