For those who have been following the story of Pan African Paper Mills, it’s closure comes as no surprise. For a long time it has been surviving on cash injections and other known and unknown favours from Treasury.
With a workforce of more than 2,000, Pan Paper is the economic engine of Webuye town. True there are other business ventures that the residents can engage in but many face imminent collapse with the fall of the giant paper manufacturer. We may very well be witnessing the death of the otherwise once vibrant town of Webuye.
Having said that, there is also the bright side to look at. Some residents feel that the closure is good riddance due to the high levels of pollution that the factory is known for. Webuye has the infamous distinction of being one of the most polluted places on the planet. For long term residents, chest and breathing problems are rife among children and adults alike. This is directly attributable to continual inhalation of highly corrosive hydrosulphuric acid and use of contaminated water from
Pan paper is one company among many that should by now have been sued and made to pay millions in compensation for poor health among residents, poor crop output, sick livestock and the sheer stench that is the hallmark of the town and it’s environs. But then again this is
Take it from someone who has been there severally, even breathing is difficult in Webuye. The stench, akin to that of rotten eggs comes in sick wave after sick wave and you are constantly aware that every breath you take is laden with chemicals. The factory itself as far as I could see was always enveloped in a sinister plume of smoke. From my web travels for this article, I’ve learnt a few things I did not even know. For example, corrugated iron sheets on roofs are corroded within months. Snowstorms of foam droplets from Pan Paper’s waste ponds cloud the sky and burn the skin.
If ever the giant paper manufacturer re-opens, the first thing they should check is the high levels of pollution. Someone should reinforce the activists and advocates who have been trying to make a case for affected residents. Webuye needs Erin Brockovich.
And that is just one factory.