A distillery in Kenema City, manufacturing hard rums including Rambo Dry Gin, Café Rum, Army Bitter, Black Bull, Black Horse Old Soldier Herbal and Try Me, etc that are said to be highly alcoholic has been shut down by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).
The shut down which was immediate, took effect on Wednesday, 19th March 2014 in the presence of police officers and the press. The main distribution shop and the processing machines were shut down almost simultaneously as soon as the order letter was handed over to the authority concerned.
According to the Senior Regional Environment Protection Officer, Ibrahim Mohamed Turay, the Pakistani owned distillery was ordered to shut down because it did not meet requirements set out in the First Schedule of the EPA Act 2008 and amended in 2010.
He said environmental impact of Punjab Distillery has not been appropriately assessed by the agency to determine the impact of its operations on the environment in its operational area and the impact this may have on residents.
The letter from EPA that was handed over to Punjab Distillery maintains that developers/ proponents who undertake large and small scale operations as listed in the First Schedule of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Act, 2008 as amended in July 2010 are required by law to carry out environment impact assessment studies and to subsequently obtain an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) license before commencement of their activities.
The letter stipulates: “The Environment Protection Agency-Sierra Leone is gravely concerned that your company PUNJAB DISTILLERY is operating illegally as you have not obtained an EIA Licence before embarking on your project activities. Section 23 (1) of the EPA Act, 2008 as amended in July 2010, states that except as otherwise provided in this Act and notwithstanding the provisions of any enactment, no person shall undertake or cause to be undertaken any of the projects set out in the first schedule unless he or she holds a valid license in respect of such project.”
It is not known whether Punjab Distillery will be fined for this contravention, but Section 23 (2) of the EPA Act stipulates so: “… any person who contravenes Subsection (1) of Section 23 commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty five million Leones in the case of a citizen of Sierra Leone and ten thousand dollars in the case of a non citizen or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years or both the fine and imprisonment.”
However, the Punjabi company started the EIA process but fell short of completing it. EPA-SL sources maintain that the company stopped at the stage of completing a Screening Form.
The sources maintain that Punjab Distillery was reminded on three consecutive times by visits of its officials.
By Saffa Moriba
Friday March 21, 2014