• August 6, 2020

Phyllis Omido Won $12m fighting lead battery poisoners in Kenyan Community

Kenyan environmental activist, Phyllis Omido won a court ruling that awarded $12m (£9.2m) to a community poisoned by lead pollution from a nearby factory after 10 years of vigorous campaign and fight.

A decade ago her company gagged her when she said their business of battery recycling could “end up killing” the people living near the plant.

The pollution also had an impact on the employees and Ms Omido never knew the extent of the problems as at 2009 even as she advocated against the lead pollution.

The activist soldiered on for ten years to get the case to court and get a decision in the community’s favour.

The $12m award is supposed to be paid jointly by the government agencies that were found to have been negligent as well as the directors of the company, which shut down in 2014.

The judge also ordered the government to clean Owino Uhuru within four months and failure to act would result in a fine.

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Ms Omido says that “money cannot even compensate” for what the 3,000-strong community has been through. Nevertheless, the funds can be used for treatment and medication.

She suspects the fight is not over yet as the money may not be immediately forthcoming as the government has a poor record of paying compensation ordered by the courts.

It has until the middle of September to pay up. If it fails, then Ms Omido will not

The 31-year-old the business management graduate had just joined Kenya Metal Refineries, a firm in the coastal city of Mombasa which was recycling car batteries to extract the lead when she started advocated against the pollution.

She was commission to do an environmental impact assessment, but when she presented the expert’s report the company directors did not act on its findings.

The battery melting process emitted both toxic fumes and a discharge that seeped into the neighbouring densely populated Owino Uhuru community.

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It affected both the air and the water, causing illnesses the residents could not understand.

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Femi Oshin

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