The National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) has halted the construction of a Sh1.2 billion fertilizer factory in Uasin Gishu County, six months after Deputy President William Ruto presided over the ground breaking ceremony.
The authority clarified that construction work in Ngeria will only start after the company undertaking the multi-billion shilling project is issued with a conditional license.
Nema Western Regional Coordinator Barasa Nangwe confirmed that the project had been put on hold for 90 days until all the conditions related to environment, health risks and public participation are addressed.
“Once all the conditions are adhered to, Nema will issue the company that is undertaking the construction of the fertilizer factory a conditional license to move on with the work at the proposed site situated along the Eldoret-Nairobi highway.
Mr Nangwe explained that there is currently a three-month window period for the public to air their views concerning the project before the authority issues a license by the end of March.
This comes in the wake of a row which is brewing over the project with some residents of Ngeria, the identified site of the plant, expressing their fear over the factory’s impact on their health and their livestock.
“The proponents of the project, Toyota Tsusho East Africa, have done environmental and social impact assessment (EIA) and submitted it to Nema headquarters.
“There is a three-month window for public participation where the public can raise their concerns and comments over the project,” said Nangwe.
Initial development of the site had started after the launch but currently there is no work in progress and the site remains deserted.
A worker who requested anonymity claimed that construction work stopped about a month ago when some residents raised concerns over the environmental effects of the project.
“Work on the fertilizer plant kicked off well in November and December last year. There was no operation from February 4, when some residents raised issues concerning the [effects on the] environment,” said one of the residents who declined to be named.
At Ngeria shopping centre, some residents said they welcome the plant which is expected to produce 150,000 metric tons of fertilizer but said they feared the resultant health risks.
“We are not opposed to the project but we have not been told of the health effects that may be caused due to pollution,” said Mr Michael Sailel, a resident.
Mr Sailel said residents should be told the truth on the risks that may be caused on underground water adding that the plant is located in a settlement area where there are also public schools.
Another resident, Mr James Chemalan, said the project would benefit farmers but said the health of residents should be given first priority.
“We understand that this project may emit gases. If this is true, then it might affect residents and also livestock. Those charged with the development of the project should tell us the truth,” he said.
He added that if the fertilizer plant is only meant for blending and repackaging, then there would be no problem it being set up in the region.
“The project is a good source of employment but we have not been told of effects that may come with it in the long run. We as residents will suffer if this project will have some health hazards,” said Abraham Maru.