…Over 50 houses cracked!
May 24, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
Residents of Ropath village are at risk of contracting diseases like tuberculosis and chronic bronchitis due to the inhalation of dusts emanating from blasting and crushing of rocks.
Already, over 50 houses show visible signs of crack as a result of blasting of rocks in the area. As a result, occupants of the affected houses fear their houses might collapse if the blasting continues.
Ropath, a tiny village is situated in Koya chiefdom, Port Loko district, has three quarries – Malik, HDF and Co and Foresight.
A resident of the village, Alimamy Bangura, said the blasting and crushing of rocks by the three companies have caused their houses to crack, adding that there is heavy dust in the air as a result.
“Last week, when they blasted, a boy who was sleeping was suddenly woken up as a result of the big sound produced. The boy went on to collapse and his parents had to rush him to the hospital. These quarries are not fit to be in our midst,” he said, adding that they are not against development but their health and safety are paramount.
Headman of Ropath, Lamin Conteh, confirmed that rock blasting by the tree companies has cracked over 50 houses. He added that the ‘thick dust’ that emanates from the crunching of the stones at the quarry site makes them cough regularly.
“Houses and mosques in surrounding villages have also been reported cracked because of activities of the HDF and Co quarry,” he disclosed.
He however claimed that Malik quarry had never destroyed their houses because they produce a very low sound when they blast the rocks, and that they soak the rocks before they are crushed in order to reduce the emission of dust.
“We recently called them to a meeting and explained our problems to them. They promised to buy bags of cement and sand dunes so that they could repair our houses. They also promised to start spilling water on the rocks before they crush so that they will not produce dust,” he narrated, adding that they are still waiting for them to fulfill their promises.
Ahmed Yigit, owner of Malik quarry, said their operations at the quarry had never disturbed the peaceful existence of the villagers. He said there should be at least 700 metres distance between a quarry and residential homes.
“Whenever we want to blast, we will inform the people three days ahead. We will do the same to the police so that we prevent getting complaints of destruction of houses,” he stated.
He noted that his company was constructing schools and a community centre for residents of Ropath village, adding that they are also rehabilitating feeder roads in the chiefdom.
Ade Metzger, Administrative Officer of HDF and Co, said that prior to blasting to hold public disclosure meetings where they discuss the effects of their operations.
“We did a blast on 14th May this year. Immediately after that the residents came with complaint that their houses have been cracked. We conducted a tour and counted the houses that were cracked as a result of the blasting,” he explained.
He added that they held a meeting with residents and promised to provide cement, iron rods and sand to repair their houses. He said they have also been spilling water on rocks in a bid to minimise dust pollution during crushing.
“We did two blasting this year and we will not do it again until next year. We are currently constructing a three classroom building for them,” he said.
Head of Climate Change and Adaptation at the Environment Protection Agency, Tamba Emmanuel Nyaka, said they had not received complaint of house cracking, instead the villagers had petitioned about dust pollution caused by crushing of the stones.
“We swiftly intervened and the quarry owners have dug boreholes where they get water to spill on the stones before they are crushed,” he disclosed.
He also disclosed that the quarry is an old one which was established during the construction of the Waterloo-Masiaka highway. He added that before EPA issues an Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) license for such operation, the quarry consultant ought to do an ESIA study and present the report to EPA for review.
“Before the issuance of ESIA license, EPA will advise that positive impacts are enhanced and potential negative impacts are not overlooked. Also, EPA will ensure that the owners will be able to manage expectations and to avoid potential conflicts,” he disclosed.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament representing constituency 057, Hon. Abubakarr S.A.T. Koroma, denied receiving any such complaint from residents of Ropath. But he promised to visit the village to those affected.