Residents of Sebei sub-region affected by the mining of pozzolana, a key ingredient in the manufacture of cement, are demanding for compensation from cement companies to relocate to safer areas.
The residents, who are living within a radius of 500 metres from the quarries, say the mining activities have put their lives at a risk due to dust, vibration from machines and flying rocks from sites that have destroyed their houses.
The companies involved in the mining include Tororo Cement, Kampala Cement and Simba Cement.
The mining is taking place in Kapchorwa District in the villages of Chekwatit, Chemangala, Kapchela, Nabugimba, Kaboryat, Kapchekukwo, Papchogo and Pachaka in Kawowo Sub-county.
Mr Fred Chemonges, a resident of Chemagala Village, says the vibration from the machines and flying rocks from the sites have continued to destroy their homes, latrines and water sources.
“We are living in an unconducive environment but no one cares, including our leaders. We used to live in peace when those companies had not started mining activities in this place,” he says. Mr Chemonges says the companies, after acquiring the mining leases, do not mind about fulfilling their obligations such as compensating and resettling the people living within the 500-metre radius of their operations.
“For instance, Tororo Cement has for over 16 years been mining in this area and it has failed to compensate us yet we are now feeling the bad effects of their own activities,” he says.
Mr Moses Manga, a resident of Chekwatiti Village, says the companies always promise them many things but they do not fulfill them.
“They promised to build for us a school, educate our children, resettle and compensate most of us who are living the area but to date, none of these promises have been fulfilled,” he says.
What authorities say
The district chairperson, Mr Christopher Songhor Chepkwurui, acknowledges the residents’ concerns and says they have written to the concerned ministries but are yet to get a response. “Their complaints are genuine and we alerted the concerned ministries. We are following up but government programmes take long,” he says.
Mr Mukuwa Mukwana, the manager at the Simba Cement quarry, says they tried to address the issues raised by the community and also compensated those affected. “It’s true damages do occur but when they do, we try to ensure that the compensation is handled well,” Mr Mukwana says.
But efforts to get a comment from the managing director of Tororo Cement were futile.
The RDC, Ms Jane Frances Kuka, says the residents should formally file their complaint to her office for follow up. “They should report to my office because we appreciate the investors but they should also think about people’s lives,” she says.