JEDDAH: ARAB NEWS
Published — Sunday 20 January 2013
Last update 20 January 2013 1:33 am
Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal ordered the closure of Al-Rajhi Steel, Jeddah's biggest steel factory, in the aftermath of environmental violations reported in the city, particularly in the Al-Qouzine neighborhood, according to a local newspaper.
Investigations revealed that the factory was emitting toxic gases.
Consequently, a committee of 15 members representing the governorate, the secretariat, the civil defense and police, implemented the order to close the factory swiftly, with around the clock supervision to ensure there would not be an attempt to restart it.
Commenting on the closure, Prince Khaled said no one is above the law and that the health and safety of citizens is of utmost importance and takes precedence over industrial projects.
Meanwhile, sources in the Jeddah Secretariat said Al-Rajhi Steel filed an appeal to the Ministry of Municipality and Rural Affairs requesting that a special committee examine the factory and address the flaws.
The appeal, however, was rejected by the governorate, which gave concern for citizen’s health as the reason the closure and reiterated the decision to close the factory until permanent solutions were sought and implemented by Al-Rajhi Steel’s management.
Citizens living in the neighborhood adjacent to the factory expressed their satisfaction with the governor’s decision, stressing that the gas emissions were damaging their health. Some citizens also questioned why the factory owners had not relocated the factory to a more suitable site, since it was established in 1424H with the civil defense’s approval.
But the Jeddah Secretariat affirmed that the factory was built without explicit approval from its side, since they didn’t obtain an environmental endorsement in the first place. Nonetheless, it has been operating since 2007, ignoring the warnings issued in this regard and the toxic gas emissions.
The website of the factory says the cost of its establishment is more than SR 1 billion, with a production capacity of 850,000 tons of steel annually, covering the needs of local and neighboring markets.
Sources at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said the factory ranked third in terms of projects that have dangerous effects on the environment.