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Commission considers legal actions against flower farms

The Federal Environment, Forest and Climate Changes Commission and the Oromia Environment, Forest and Climate Changes Authority are considering duplicating the legal measures taken against tanneries,for what was said to be a repeated environmental pollution offenses, on flower farms in various location in the country and the regional state, The Reporter has learnt.

It is to be recalled that officials from the two commissions announced last week that they have begun taking legal actions on “the 11 most pollutant tanneries” in Modjo town including the shutting down of three factories for causing “a serious pollution ofthe Modjo river.” The Commission claimed that it has executed its mandate of enforcing the law against these factories accused of negligently releasing untreated waste material directly into the river.

“Now, the Commission [in cooperation with regional bureaus] have turned theirtarget towards major flower farms that have been associated with environmental pollution and dispensation of hazardous chemicals for a long time,”Abeje Tariku,a Senior Communication Expert with the commission, told The Reporter over a phone interview on Thursday.

“Since the past few months, we have been strengthening our supervision and monitoring activities on manufacturing plants and big farms. Like the tanneries, the impact of hazardous chemical, which are dispensed into the environment, are already observed on floricultural farms,” Abeje said adding that “the Commission will take the necessary legal measures against the farms until they take measures to improve their waste disposal and chemical treatment systems.”

He also said that the Commission is currently in discussion with owners and stakeholders ofthefloriculture sector to devise the right mechanismtoensure their treatment activities and safeguard the environment and the safety of the people.He even did not shy away from disclosing that most investors in the horticulture business migrated from Europe and Kenya due to their bad record regarding environmental safety.

Furthermore, he indicated that the weaknesses of the government in the past decade for failing to take actions on them, though their impacts they have created on the environment is apparently known.

In the coming few weeks, the supervision and follow-up activities will begin focusing on the farms located tothe South-East andSouth of Addis Ababa, in Western Addis Ababa as well as other regional towns where floriculture and horticultural farms are located.

According to Abeje, the Commission will not see them continue in the same manner and also encourages them to improve their treatment mechanisms.

“Our interest is not only to take legal measures;it is not to force them to close down their plants or farms eithers. We are, in fact, focused on helping them produce in an environmentally friendly manner,” he said.

In addition, hedownplays investors’ concern regarding the investment cost of acquiring a treatment technology.

According to Abeje, the government indeed has taken note of the cost of a treatmentplant since it could get as high as thecost of the main production facilities. Nevertheless, that is why investors had been given a grace period of five years when they start.

“For example, with tanneries, they were given a permission to plant their factory without treatment facilities. Though the treatment facilities are costly, the Leather and Hide sector is very profitable with the capacity to recoverthe initial investment within the five years grace period.”

According to the information The Reporterhas obtained from the federal Commissionin the previous week, the measures jointly taken by the two commissions includes four factories that are originally owned by Ethiopian and foreign owners. But most of them are currently outsourced for Chinese investors.

These factories are said to dispose their waste products that contain hazardouschemicals such as chrome, designated as Master Five Chemical believed to cause a long-lasting effect on the health of inhabitants.

Meanwhile, the Oromia Environment, Forest and Climate Changes authority announced that the factories–most of them owned by foreigners–were penalized for ignoring the standards in the Environment and Climate Change Mitigation Proclamation.Abejealso criticized these companies’ single-minded focus on the expansion of their productionactivities and sheer negligence when it comes to environmental concerns.Furthermore, he saidthat similar supervisions and monitoring activities are being strengthened on other manufacturing plants as well in various parts of the country.

Hence, out of the 11 factories, four are told to shut-down their facilities in two weeks’time for their contribution to pollution was found at the “worst level.” The two week period given to these factories are to help them finish the tanning activities being processed under their stock.Similarly, the authorities have given a permission to partially operate with a warning and a month long grace period to improve their treatment capacity with the remaining three given a three month period to bring improvements in their treatment capacity of waste products.

According tohim, the three factoriesthat are ordered to close down were also told that they could not resume operations unless they address their faults fully while they are required to keep paying the wages of their employees.

Accordingly, the deputy Commissioner was ordered to take further supervision and assessment findings in three months’time on the remaining three factors despite the factories claiming“thereis no problem in their treatment facilities.”

The authorities, however, declined to disclose the names of the 11 companies.