An ethical investigation of the effect of the cement industry on the natural environment and human health: a case study of the Lafarge cement plant in Chilanga township
The study sought to investigate the effect Lafarge Cement Factory in Chilanga was having on the natural environment as well as on the human inhabitants. The objectives of the study, were to: to investigate the effect Lafarge cement plant in Chilanga township is having on the natural environment; to investigate the effects Lafarge cement plant is having on the human inhabitants; to identify measures Lafarge is taking to mitigate the negative effects of the plant on the natural and the human environment in Chilanga township and to make an ethical investigation of the effects of Lafarge cement plant on the natural and human environment. The study used the case study design which employed the qualitative strategy in order to effectively address the issues raised by the research questions. Primary data was collected using in-depth interviews, observations and focus group discussions (FGDs). The participants involved were fifteen (15) residents of Musamba community and fifteen (15) residents from Freedom compound selected by systematic random sampling. In addition, five (5) key informants were purposively selected, that is, one (1) official from Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA), two (2) workers from Lafarge and two (2) officials from the nearby clinics. The total sample of those interviewed was therefore thirty five (35). In addition, four (4) FGDs were conducted, two (2) in Musamba community and two (2) in Freedom compound, each group consisting of eight (8) people selected by convenience sampling. Data was analysed qualitatively. This involved description, explanation and interpretation of the raw data. Secondary data was collected from relevant books, periodicals, internet, journals and articles obtained from ZEMA and the University of Zambia libraries. The findings of the study revealed that dust emissions from Lafarge cement plant have adversely affected the growth and productivity of crops and plants found near the cement plant. Furthermore, Lafarge’s excessive quarrying of limestone has distorted the aesthetic beauty of the landscape. With regard to human health, the findings of the study revealed that the residents of the two compounds have continued to be exposed to dust emissions from the cement plant and consequently suffer from respiratory tract infections (RTIs), throat problems, excessive tearing and eye itchiness. The ethical evaluation found that, despite some mitigating measures taken, dust emissions from the cement plant continue to negatively affect both the natural environment and human health in and around Lafarge. Although the precautionary principle is to some extent taken into consideration in helping to minimise and alleviate the harm caused, it is not sufficiently applied to solve the problem of dust emissions. Similarly, although the polluter pays principle is also taken into account by compensating for the destruction done to the natural environment and to human health, the perceptions of the local community are that the company should be doing more to respond to their problems, especially with respect to employment. The study concluded that, despite some mitigation measures taken, dust emissions from Lafarge continue to negatively affect both the natural environment and human health in and around the cement factory in Chilanga. Based on the findings, the study recommends that the government through Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) should step up to the challenge and start regularly monitoring the activities of Lafarge cement plant.