(MENAFN - Arab News) Almost 1.5 km away south of Jeddah, a deadly industrial smell fills the air of Al-Qawzin district, where fumes and gases emanate from five iron plants and oil recycling workshops.
The area is populated by more than ten thousand people exposed to an environmental and health hazard that threatens their lives, and the lives of their children.
Amid such dangerous conditions, the government remains silent and continues to grant licenses to such plants.
Demands from the residents over a period of ten years resulted in the formation of a government committee to assess the environmental conditions in the area. The fact-finding committee found several violations in these iron plants, followed by a decision from the governorate to close the facilities. But the victory of the residents lasted only ninety days after which the plants resumed their operations and activities, justification the action as resulting from a "correctional" grace period of one year.
Residents of Al-Qawzin did not realize that their lands which they inherited from their fathers and grandparents would be someday a land for plants and factories, polluting the clean fresh air they breathe without anyone being held accountable.
A reliable source in a government committee that was formed upon the orders of the Jeddah mayor to look into hazards the plants impose on residents, said the iron plants are threatening the lives of citizens living in the area.
"There are no filters to clear the emissions. These plants must be closed at once," he said.
He said the Human Rights Commission in Makkah confirmed the existence of some iron plants adjoining three residential homes built not more than 480 meters away. He said an accidental blast in the plant will destroy the homes and endanger lives. These plants lack the minimal safety measures, according to the report of the Civil Defense Department.
Jeddah Municipality and the General Presidency for Meteorology and Environment denied granting licenses to the violating plants in Al-Qawzin district.
A member of the lawyers committee said the residents have the right to claim damage compensations. "Both the General Presidency for Meteorology and Environment and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry must bear the responsibility of damages," said the lawyer who preferred to remain anonymous.