Residents of four communities on Bushrod Island have registered ‘no objection’ to the construction of a new cement factory in Billimah community opposite the National Port of Authority (NPA) Headquarters in Monrovia.
Residents of Billimah, Sawmill, Bassa Town and Jamaica Road over the weekend during a public hearing on the Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Report for the construction of the new factory said the proposed Star Cement Corporation Grinding and Packaging Plant would provide jobs for members of their communities.
The ESIA was prepared by Liberia Engineering and Geo-Tech Consultant (LEG Consultant), an independent environmental evaluator.
The public hearing, which attracted residents of four communities, representatives of line government ministries and agencies, administrators of Boatswain Junior High School and Montserrado County District # 13 Representative, Edward P. Flomo was held by the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia (EPA) in accordance with the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia (EPML).
Kawusu M. Toure, assistant manager for ESIA at the EPA said the gathering was intended to review and get citizens inputs on the study done by LEG Consultant on the environmental and social impacts the proposed Star Cement Corporation Grinding and Packaging Plant will have on local communities.
The Star Cement Corporation Grinding and Packaging Plant is own by Sethi Brothers.
ESIA process is a systemic procedure to identify, predict and evaluate the potential environmental and socio-economic effects of proposed projects, plans or policies.
“This process is applied prior to issuance of environmental permits,” Mr. Toure told a gathering of Stakeholders at the Arabic and English School in Bilimah.
He added that the ESIA process helps to provide key and relevant stakeholders with information about the likely potential impacts of projects.
In some cases, Mr. Toure disclosed that the outcome of the ESIA process may require a developer to alter or in extreme cases abandon a project.
Speaking at the start of stakeholders’ consultation, EPA Deputy Executive Director, Randall M. Dobayou said the intent of the stakeholder review was not to compel residents to accept the project.
“We have not come to impose on you. We are not here to tell you that the project will not have negative impacts or positive impacts. We have come to present the facts so that you can make a determination,” He told residents.
According to him, the law requires that citizens participate in the management of their natural resources and noted “in this case the environment is your natural resources.”
“You are habitants of the various communities and you will be interacting with the proposed company and you will be directly impacted either negatively or positively by the project,” Hon. Dobayou said.
He explained that the issuance of an environmental permit for the construction of the new cement factory will be based on submissions that participants will make during the stakeholder review.
For his part, EPA Manager for Compliance and Enforcement John K. Jallah disclosed that the EPA has done a technical review of the proposed project and assured residents that there will be a periodic review of the project to ensure that it remains in compliance with the environmental laws and what is contained in its ESIA document.
“We will have environmental technicians and quality technicians coming on the field quarterly to verify the reports Star Cement Corporation will be providing to the EPA to ensure that
Manager Jallah threatened to revoke the company’s permit, when it comes in conflict with its permit conditions.
He dismissed public perception that the EPA is only concern with the granting of permits to project exponents.
In a powerpoint presentation, LEG Consultants Technical Director Jallah Nelson disclosed that his company was hired to conduct an ESIA study for the construction of a Cement Grinding and Packaging Plant (CGPP) on a 4 acres of land within the vicinity of Sethi Brother Compound on Bushrod Island.
Nelson explained that the factory will be used for the production and sale of cement and provide services that will translate into customer satisfaction, corporate credibility and creates employment opportunities in and around Liberia.
He noted that the company will produce three grades of cement including CEM II 32 R, CEM II 42.5R and CEM II 52.2R Grades during its ten hours daily operation which will start from 8am to 5pm.
“A new 130 tons cement packing machine will be installed to produce 600,000 tons of cement per year and in the production stage, raw materials like limestone will be source from Egypt and Turkey and ship to Liberia,” technician Nelson said.
He acknowledged that there will be some potential negative environmental impacts during and after the construction of the plants, but assured that the company will institute several environmental mitigation measures to curtail threats to local communities.
For instance, Nelson explained that for air and dust emission which will occurred during construction and operational phase of the project, Star Cement Corporation has employed several measures including paving the project site; sprinkling of water; the use of nose masks and PPEs by workers; the creation of sufficient ventilation at workplace, de-dusting system and the covering of spilled cement and conveyors at all times.
He also disclosed that to mitigate noise pollution, the company will conduct a monthly noise monitoring to ensure that noise levels are below national and international standard, and ensure that vehicles and machines are service regularly to reduce the high level of noise.
Nelson explained that Star Cement Corporation will fit noisy machines with noise reduction devices, provide suitable hearing protection to all workers exposed to noise levels above 70dB; and as well post notices and signs in noisy areas.
Nelson’s presentation was followed by questions and answers. Most of the questions. Most of the questions was centered around jobs and social benefits for affected communities people.
Responding to some of the questions, Representative Flomo assured that the citizens’ concerns will be addressed by an MOU between communities and the Sethi Brothers prior to the commencement of the cement factory.
He disclosed that through his negotiation with Sethi, the company has agreed to construct a medical facility that will be accessible to residents in affected areas.
In separate statements, leaders and youth representatives of the four communities including Billimah, Sawmill, Jamaica Road and Bassa Town lauded authorities of the EPA for initiating the forum, which according to them was never done in the case of Cemenco.
Charles F. Kaizai, Jamaica Road Community Leader said they can’t resist the construction of the cement factory because it would provide jobs and other opportunities for local residents, while Billimah Community Chairman, A. Mulbah Dukuly expressed satisfaction for the project.