Advocacies for respect for human rights, decent living condition and respect for human values continue with one of the biggest concession companies in Liberia, Sime Darby coming under spotlights.
One of Liberia environmental and human rights protection campaigners, Green Advocates International, has intensified crusade aimed at “halting Sime Darby’s forceful eviction and advocacy for improved living conditions at its concession areas in Grand Cape Mount and Bomi counties.”
The group in a weekend press release said it has asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revoke the permit granted the plantation company to cultivate 10, 000 hectares of oil palm in Grand Cape Mount and Bomi counties.
The organization’s Senior Campaigner, ,according to the release, requested EPA Executive Director AnyaaVohiri, to cancel Sime Darby’s permit bearing EPA/EC/ESIA/001-0410 issued the company. The permit is expected to expire on April 20, 2012.
The group disclosed that its investigation at the plantation has unearthed that workers and citizens living at the plantation depend on running water sources for drinking while workers live in makeshift structures.
The advocacy group has in recent time criticized the company for what it calls appalling conditions at the Rubber Plantation.
Cllr. Brownell also requested Madam Vohiri to reject recent application ofSime Darby for an additional 15,000 hectares for the cultivation of oil palm in Garwular and GolaKonneh districts, Cape Mount County and another 20, 000 hectares in Gbarpolu County.
The release claims a group of Cape Mount citizens, including elders and town chiefs, recently wrote the EPA to register their disagreement to the granting of additional land to Sime Darby for oil palm cultivation.
But Cllr. Brownell wants the EPA refrain from reviewing and consulting stakeholders on Sime Darby Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), in which the application for additional land in the county is contained.
The ESIA was conducted by Green Consultancy Inc. or GreenCons on behalf of Sime Darby and submitted to EPA in May 2011.
Mr. Brownell indicated that the group’s request is based on established fact that Sime Darby has deliberately, intentionally and knowingly violated the terms and conditions of the permit issued to it on April 21st 2010 to cultivate 10,000 hectares of palm oil in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties.
The release quotes Cllr. Brownelle thus: “It may interest you to note, Madam Director, that in keeping with the rights of the public to access information relating to the implementation of the Act creating the EPA (Section 101, Count 1), we visited the agency on Thursday, August 18th 2011, and requested access to information as well as the right to inspect the records on whether Sime Darby had complied with the terms and condition imposed on the environmental permit issued by the EPA.”
He told Madam Vohirithat Green Advocates International was deeply disturbed to find out that Sime Darby had not adhered to regulations for the proper storage and handling of agro –chemicals.
Mr. Brownell also noted that EPA record established that Sime Darby has filled in all swamps within the 10,000 hectares operational permit area and has commenced planting oil palm on wetlands.
He disclosed that the company has also failed to protect critical habitat of fauna and flora species and also refused to leave a belt of forest minimum 10 meters along water ways in operational areas.
The Green Advocates Lead Campaigner indicated that during the visit, the Head of EPA-Environmental Impact Assessment Section Varney Konneh confirmed that Sime Darby had neither requested nor obtain clearances on disposal procedures and methods from the EPA.
Mr. Brownell also observed that the company has not disposed in an environmental friendly manner all redundant machinery or equipment and other scrap metals from operational area; neither has it requested or obtained clearances on the disposal procedures and methods.
He told Madam Vohiri that her agency has confirmed that there are earth fill dams across streams, which serves as tributaries feeding into large rivers with the company not providing an alternative source of drinking water to communities whose water source are polluted or may be polluted by Sime Darby’s activities.
“Additionally, Madam Executive Director, in keeping with Section 26, of the Act Creating the EPA, on the Submission of Environmental Impact Assessment Report After Issuance of an Environmental Impact Assessment License, we call on the EPA to enforce the remaining punitive measures which include but may not be limited to a fine not exceeding US$ 10,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 5 years, or to both. This is the Law Madam Executive Director. We expect nothing less,” he concluded.
Green Advocates International is a non-profit, human rights group working to advance a wide range of issues through; legal aid, consultation and support for environmental and human rights violations.