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Lead acid batteries recycling factory in Mombasa, Kenya

Lead-acid batteries recycling factory impacted people's and environmental's health in Mombasa, Kenya. For forcing its closure, Phyllis Omido won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015.


In 2007, the Indian company Metal Refinery (EPZ) Ltd. began its operations of recycling lead from old used lead-acid car batteries in Owino Uhuru, an informal settlement in Mombasa, Kenya (5). 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Lead acid batteries recycling factory in Mombasa, Kenya
State or province:Mombassa
Location of conflict:Owino Uhuru
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
E-waste and other waste import zones
Specific commodities:Car's Batteries
Recycled Metals
Project Details and Actors
Project details

EPZ Limited, a Kenyan subsidiary of an Indian-owned company, moved into Owino Uhuru in 2007 offering about 200 jobs.

Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:3800
Start of the conflict:2007
Company names or state enterprises:Metal Refinery EPZ from India - Owner
Penguin Paper and Book Company (no connection with the global publishing company) from Kenya - Local partner
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation (MOPHS),
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Center for Justice, Governance and Environmental Action (CJGEA),
Supporters: UN Commission on Human Rights; Human Rights Watch;
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Urban low-income populations;
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Other Environmental impactsImpacts on pets and other animals.
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsSpecific impacts on children; miscarriages; respiratory diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Other socio-economic impacts, Displacement
Other socio-economic impactsSpecific impacts on IQ development in children which can lead to socio-economic disadvanges.
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Usefulness of environmental resources due to lead pollution: “Our vegetables and our fish are toxic.”
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:In 2014 the company finally closed the plant. Omido is now a well-recognized activist in Africa and she is leading many more cases of lead contamination in SouthSaharian Africa. Her work has led to the shuttering of 10 toxic waste smelters in Kenya.
Kenyans are still struggling for being compensated and for a clean up as the environment is still poisoned.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Constitution of Kenya (Articles 37 and Article 119) "The right of Kenyan citizens to petition public authorities and Parliament"

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(9) Blood Lead Levels in Children
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

(1) 'East African Erin Brockovich' wins prize for closing polluting lead smelter
[click to view]

(2) Phyllis Omido (Kenya, 2015) Goldman Prize 2019
[click to view]

(3) Desirée García and Javier Marín (2019) Vidas Envenenadas. At: El Confidencial, Special Report.
[click to view]

(4) Kenya: Metal Refinery (EPZ) sued for environmental pollution allegedly causing illness & deaths
[click to view]

(5) Business Human Rights report
[click to view]

(6) Schlanger (March 2018) A Kenyan mother, two disappearing Indian businessmen, and the battery factory that poisoned a village
[click to view]

(8) (REPORT2)Public petition from residents of Ovirino Ouru Village to the Senate by Senator Emma Mbura.
[click to view]

(10) Mombasa anti-pollution activist tired of living in hiding
[click to view]

(7) (REPORT1) Public petition from residents of Ovirino Ouru Village to the Senate by Senator Emma Mbura.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

(VIDEO) Kenya : le combat de Phyllis Omido pour fermer une usine qui empoisonnait les villageois
[click to view]

(VIDEO-Conference) Diritti senza confini. Parla l'attivista keniota Phyllis Omido
[click to view]

Other documents

Metal Refinery Lawsuit (2016)
[click to view]

Phyllis Omido, environmental activists and Goldman Prize winner
[click to view]

Cases of Lead Pollution in Sub-Saharian Africa Source: Desirée García and Javier Marín (2019) Vidas Envenenadas. At: El Confidencial, Special Report.
[click to view]

The lead-acid battery smelter, visible in the background of this photo, lead to a mass poisoning in Owino Uhuru, a village in Mombasa, Kenya’s second-largest city. Source: Zoë Schlanger on March 18, 2018

Retrieved from on August 2019.
[click to view]

Omido and other villagers Phyllis Omido walks through the village of Owino Uhuru. She has been keeping a close eye on the lead exposure that has plagued this settlement since a nearby smelter began operations in 2007. Photo/CNN
[click to view]

Other comments:This smelter is related to a bigger industry, the solar energy industry. As the small-scale solar industry grows in Kenya and in the world, so does battery demand; each new solar arrays needs lead-acid batteries for power storage. There are several similar conflicts in China.
"Lead is defined as a commodity and not a residue, that is why is not recognized under the Basilea Convention, so, its trade is legal" Andreas Manhart, Okö-Institut.
Meta information
Contributor:Grettel Navas, ENVJustice Project
Last update18/08/2019
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