Tobacco processing companies have invested $1.5million (about K900 million) to rehabilitate Kanengo waste management site in Lilongwe as part of waste mitigation action plan.
The companies under the umbrella, Tobacco Processors Association (TPA), rented a five-hectare land when the Lilongwe City Council (LCC) requested the firms to use the space for dumping tobacco offals, but the dumpsite was later hijacked by illegal dumpsters.
The TPA mandated Japan Tobacco International (JTI) Leaf Malawi Limited to spearhead the remediation project which started in 2013.
According to TPA representative Antonio Vencesla, who is also JTI Leaf Malawi corporate affairs and communications director, the rehabilitation of the site followed an independent scientist evaluation which determined that tobacco waste and coal dust does not presently pose any health risks to surrounding communities and their environment.
“However, to mitigate any such risks over the long-term, the TPA working together with environmental scientists developed a mitigation action plan. Rehabilitation of the existing waste disposal is part of this action plan”, he said.
Vencesla said in addition to rehabilitating the site, TPA has sunk seven deep-surface boreholes to provide safe drinking water to people of surrounding villages.
“These boreholes draw water from deep below the surface, beyond the reach of potential surface contamination and this was one of the recommendations of the environmentalists we are working with,” he said.
On his part, LCC chief executive officer Moza Zeleza applauded the tobacco processors for the good gesture.
He said LCC intends to reuse the land to expand sewer works and ponds which will serve the Kanengo Industrial Area.
“With the expansion of new industries, the existing ponds may not process effectively the generation of waste, therefore, this land will be of great essence to the sewer works,” he said.
The waste mitigation action plan adopted by the TPA also involves treatment of existing waste to prevent it from leaching minerals into surrounding soil.
Kanengo waste management site was initially established in 1997 by TPA.
TPA members include JTI Leaf Malawi Ltd, Limbe Leaf Tobacco and Alliance One, who have been dumping all the tobacco offals at this site until 2011 when the site was decommissioned due to overloading. n