An Accra High Court has halted the construction of a cement factory at McCarthy Hill in Accra following a legal action by residents of the area

The court presided over by Justice Joseph Adu Owusu Agyeman, ordered Empire Cement Ghana Limited to cease construction of the factory until the hearing and determination of an injunction application filed by the residents.

The residents of the area, under the auspices of the McCarthy Hill Residents Association, went to court to stop the construction of the factory, with an argument that the factory was detrimental to their health and well-being.

According to them, the factory was sited close to the Weija Dam and would affect their source of drinking water.

They also accused Empire Cement Ghana Limited of not having the requisite permit to build the cement factory.

Empire Cement Ghana Limited has, however, denied any wrongdoing and has accused the residents of doing the bidding of industry rivals.

Construction

In their statement of claim, the residents said they got wind of the construction of the factory in March, this year, and that due to the health and environmental hazards, it quickly contacted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA, it said, made it clear that Empire Cement Ghana Limited had not fulfilled the mandatory requirements under the law, neither had it been given the permits to go ahead with the construction, and, therefore, ordered the company to stop the construction.

“When the Defendant heard of the residents maneuvering to stop the construction, they rather increased their activities by speeding up the construction and working round the clock including in the nights,” it said.

According to the plaintiff, the company had obtained a permit from the EPA to produce cement bags, and not cement itself.

“Due to the continuous protest by the residents, the EPA follow-up investigations revealed that even though the defendant had earlier told the EPA that it would be producing cement bags, it has rather installed equipment for the production of cement leading to the EPA to withdraw an earlier permit granted to the company to produce cement bags,” the plaintiff added.

It was also the case of the residents that due to their quest to stop the construction, Empire Cement Ghana Limited sought the assistance of some politicians to push through the construction of the factory.

“Plaintiff says that with the resources at the disposal of the defendant and its new found political allies, it was bent on finishing the construction without recourse to the laws of the land and the environmental and health concerns of the residents within the catchment area,” it said.

Reliefs

The residents are, therefore, seeking a declaration from the court to the effect that the construction of the factory in their area without “requisite permit and recourse to the environment and health of the residents is illegal.”

They also want the court to perpetually restrain the company, its agents or assigns and representatives from going ahead with the construction.

They are also seeking an order from the court directed at the Empire Cement Factory to decommission all equipment, structures, machinery and any other facilities for the production and bagging of cement at the site.

Other reliefs sought by the residents include punitive damages and costs.

Defence

In its defence, the company denied all the claims by the residents and said it had taken adequate steps to ensure that the safety and health of the residents were protected.

It also said the factory would not be for the production of cement but rather for the bagging of finished products.

EPA, GWCL questioned

Deputy Director of A Rocha Ghana, Daryl Bosu has been sharing his opinion on this matter on his facebook page, congratulating the civil action that resulted in this injunction.

He wrote “This development gives me cause for worry and many questions that need answering. I however congratulate the civil action that resulted in this injunction. Due diligence and safeguards for projects such as these are always crucial and should not be ignored”.

He asked “Was an EIA done before this project started. Was the project rubber-stamped to go ahead because it came in the name of 1D1F. If an EIA was done, was there a public hearing, were the concerns of the residents taken into consideration? Or as usual, it was just a formality”?

“Why should it take the residents to initiate such an action? Where are the EPA and the GWCL. Why should the EPA and GWCL allow an industry such as a cement-producing factory close to a crucial water treatment reservoir like the Weija Dam and how many more cement-producing factories are we going to allow in residential areas like McCharty Hill?