The Permanent Secretary of Environment Joshua Wycliffe says the Department of Environment has been in touch with the cement companies clearly instructing them that they will need to abide by the conditions set in their permit (including any special requirements, Stop Work/Prohibition Notices in place) and any other COVID related operational requirements set by other Government agencies.
He made this comments after revelations on fijivillage that some residents in Lami have sought legal opinion from the Fiji Environmental Law Association on the concerns that they have been raising on the clinker ship and cement factories that are emitting dust into the air.
Wycliffe says a key condition set in the approval conditions was for the companies to call for an Environment Management Committee meeting monthly with the residents.
He says this may not have occurred due to the existing COVID restrictions in place.
Wycliffe confirms he is considering legal options and advice available to him in this regard.
He has asked for the companies to meet with the residents through virtual means and keep regular contact with the residents, so their concerns do not fail to get attention during these otherwise challenging times.
The Permanent Secretary also confirmed that he has been in touch with the residents providing updates on the steps taken recently.
Wycliffe adds the Department is doing well in coordinating its regulatory responses with the Companies – all the while taking into account the legal requirements the Department is accountable to and of course taking due consideration and care to meet all existing COVID movement requirements.
The residents that fijivillage has been speaking to, are gathering evidence on the effects on the people and the environment. They are gathering evidence on how clinker is being washed off which then goes into the waters and drains, clinker dust on the road when the trucks are transporting the clinker to the factories and the dust from the factories affecting the residents.
Repeated inhalation of cement clinker dust over a long period of time increases the risk of developing lung diseases.
Lami resident Sydel Whippy says they have been raising issues for a while now and since there is no or very little response from the authorities and the cement companies, they have taken this step as they are worried about what they are breathing in.
Whippy says they have done this as they want to know where they stand at the moment in terms of fighting for their health.
She says it is so bad now as they have dust settling on their cars which cannot be removed with just the use of water.
Another Lami resident, Johnathan Smith says urgent action is needed as people are breathing in the clinker dust.
Smith says the answer is to have properly sealed containers to transport the clinker and the best international standards need to be enforced to protect the people and the environment.
Meanwhile Sydel Whippy also says they will continue to raise concerns about the damage to the environment.
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