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Lead pollution in Kenya

'In 2016, The Center for Justice Governance and Environmental Action (CJGEA), instituted a class action lawsuit on behalf of the Owino Uhuru community in a Kenyan Environment and Land Court, in relation to lead contamination and poisoning.'

Children from the Owino Uhuru community have been dying at an escalated rate, because of lead poisoning from the damage inflicted by an adjacent smelter and battery recycling plant that operated with impunity for 7 years, and without the mandatory environmental assessment, until it was forced to shut down in 2014.

The Metal Refinery (EPZ) opened this smelting plant in 2007 and complaints soon emerged from the local community alleging the company was poisoning the environment due to poor waste management.

The class action seeks around $5 million USD in compensation as well as clean-up of contaminated lands.

The lawsuit challenges the responsibility of 8 different state and non-state actors regarding the protection of the right to a clean and healthy environment.

SINCE THE CLAIM WAS NOTICED IN 2016, The Metal Refinery EPZ LTD and Penguin Paper and Book Company (the company which housed the smelter), evaded the claimants´ notices for a year. The Environment and Land Court opened court proceedings on May 2018.
After the lawsuit was made public, workers and environmental activists from the CJGEA started receiving threats, being harassed, and being trailed.
PhYllis Omido, who shed light regarding the health consequences in the community from the factory´s activities and founded the CJGEA, faced death threats as a result of bringing the case.

In 2014, 2017, and 2018 the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment called for the Kenyan government to protect four environmental human rights defenders and members of the CJGEA who had been assaulted and subjected to death threats.

10 witnesses in the lead poisoning lawsuit filed by the CJGEA and the Owino Uhuru community have been placed under protection.

ms. PhYllis Omido, an environmental leader at CJGEA, won in 2015 the Goldman Environmental prize for Africa for her work in Owino Uhuru. Most of the money from the award was used to the legal battle.

Furthermore, the UN received information concerning alleged threats, intimidation, and assaults against environmental human rights defenders, Mr. Alfred Ogola, Ms. Anastacia Nambo, Mr. Wilfred Kamencu and Ms. Kavumi Munga, in relation to their involvement in the class action litigation. Many ehrdS HAD TO GO INTO HIDING.
'Extensive campaigning by the CJGEA and support from the international community raised the battle’s political profile and prompted government officials to act by making available a series of three confidential reports. The first, in March 2015, called for health and environmental impact assessments and reportedly concluded the company had failed to comply with the law. This was confirmed by a second report. The third and final paper focused on health and apparently found high blood lead levels in the children of Owino Uhuru due to environmental exposure.'

Credits:

1. United Nations Photo; Coping with disaster: sandstorm in Kenya; January 1, 1984; some rights reserved. 2. United Nations Photo; voluntary fund for decade for women assists green belt; January 1, 1983; some rights reserved. 3. United Nations Photo; UNMISS works with Warrap state hospital; July 1, 2015; some rights reserved. 4. Sida Swedish Int. Development Cooperation Agency; traveling_by_truck_Kenya; July 1, 2008; some rights reserved. 5. UN logo. 6. United Nations Photo; Aerial views of Ifo 2 Refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya; October 29, 2014; some rights reserved. 7. United Nations Photo; UNMISS works with Warrap state hospital; July 1, 2015; some rights reserved.