Tobacco Firm Faces Legal Action Over Pollution

Residents of Ocoko in Ajia Sub County, Arua district are collecting signatures in support of a suit against Meridian tobacco; a company that built a multi-million tobacco processing plant in the area.
Meridian tobacco in Arua
Meridian tobacco in Arua
They are accusing the firm of polluting the environment, and directing waste from the factory to the rivers.

The Residents led by Fred Abati the LC 1 chairperson of the area says much of the waste from the factory flows into River Enyauva and Akarafi, the only sources of water for domestic consumption.

Abati explains that the community surrounding the factory doesn’t enjoy fresh air. They are covered by a very unpleasant smell and inhale tobacco products that put their lives at risk. Residents believe that the damage weighs more than the alleged employment opportunities the firm brings to the area.

He adds that all formal complaints lodged to the Company, the district environment office, office of the RDC and that of the Chief administrative officer of have yielded no fruit. So far collected 300 signatures have been collected to facilitate the legal process.

Distric leaders have disowned Meridian Tobacco Company acquired the more than 20 acres of land from one of the resident; Baptista Buatre through land brokers. Area leaders claim that the formal presence of the factory is unknown to them.

Luiji Candini, the Arua district secretary for production says they have heard about the existence the tobacco processing factory but the company has never written any formal letter to them.

Monica Ejua, the assistant chief administrative officer says according to the law, all stakeholders need to be informed prior to the establishment of major investments like factories in their area. She says such problems ought to be addressed through an environmental impact assessment that us undertaken before construction works start.

However Gilberto Kohn, the Leaf regional manager says an environmental impact assessment was dully undertaken before work started.

Currently the factory is undertaking Leaf threshing and primary processing. Tobacco is the chief cash crop, especially in Arua and Koboko districts.

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