Move to ban polluters from near residences

ONLY environmental-friendly industries could be allowed to set up near homes under a new parliamentary proposal aimed at safeguarding the health of the population and pulling the plug on polluters.

The 10-member Southern Municipal Council backed a proposal to ban heavy industries in residential areas referred by Parliament’s public utilities and environment affairs committee.

Council chairman Bader Al Tamimi outlined that any action could not be retrospective but existing industries could be encouraged to install more noise and emission buffers.

“Public health and the environment remain an issue we have sworn to protect and the best solution is to ban new industries that are not environmental-friendly from residential areas and enforce strict rules on the existing ones,” said Mr Al Tamimi.

An original proposal would have forced the government to ban new heavy industries from residential areas but, on reflection, consideration was given to the growth in urbanisation.

“We have to be logical as multi-million industries cannot be relocated or removed from their current sites,” said Mr Al Tamimi.

“When those industries started up decades ago they were located in what many would consider ‘no man’s land’ but urbanisation has over time changed the situation.

“I am not saying that those industries are performing excellently in terms of controlling pollution, but a ban would mean they would have to stop operations and that would be catastrophic since the government needs revenues at this difficult time.”

Parliament’s oldest MP Yousif Zainal, who is behind the proposal, said only light industries should be allowed near residential areas.

“Moulding, steel manufacturing, chemical mixing and other industrial activities are now done in a different manner than 20 years ago, but again they remain environmental issues,” he said.

“We are not against heavy industries, they are vital for progress, but not in residential areas, or in disregard to pollution standards.

“If the government allowed people to live in an area then their health and wellbeing is government responsibility.”

His sentiments were echoed by Hidd MP Yousif Al Thawadi, home to numerous companies. “We need industry to develop and, heavy or light, everyone has to respect the environment,” he urged.

“Pollution is an ongoing issue and the solution I have in mind is to enforce buffer zones. New industries in residential areas should be environmentally friendly.”

Hidd municipal councillor Abdulaziz Al Ka’abi believes a cap on the number of heavy industries able to locate in his ‘saturated’ area was necessary. “I’m not against development but it cannot come at the expense of fumes reaching into homes.

We don’t want to end up like Ma’ameer where fish are regularly found dead, water turns toxic and people are getting sick,” he claimed.

The Cabinet ordered an environmental assessment of Ma’ameer and the surrounding areas in June last year. The study focused on air quality and emissions by factories and industrial establishments.

The Cabinet also demanded work be speeded up on widening the Ma’ameer water channel to allow better circulation in Tubli Bay with multi-dinar projects being announced in March this year.

An assessment follows the findings of an investigation last year that showed red tide and an increase in pollutants had led to thousands of dead fish washing ashore in Ma’ameer and Eker.



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