Rock blasting activities carried out by a Chinese-owned quarry company have dealt heavy blows on residents of 13 communities in a town in Kwara State. This report is on the painful experiences of residents, who have lost homes and businesses to constant deafening blasts and are presently plagued by hearing losses
In her one-room apartment in Ifesowapo, a community in Orogbangba Town, in the Asa Local Government area of Kwara State, Abidemi Adegboyega jumped at the sound of a loud blast.
The accompanying vibration, which could be likened to that of an earthquake, sent jitters down the spine of the mother of two.
Panic-stricken and apprehensive, Abidemi dashed across the room to pick up her yelling two-week-old baby, who all the while had been sleeping peacefully.
Still in shock, she tried to pacify the wailing infant and ran outside as the house continued to vibrate from the impact of the deafening sound.
Outside, the nursing mother was greeted by choking white dust that had taken over the skyline, burying the rays of a once blazing sun.
Speaking later about her experience, the mother of two said she was yet to recover from the heavy blast, which she claimed left cracks on the walls of several houses within the community.
Environmental law disregarded
Although the National Environmental Regulations (2013) specified that a Quarry site should not be sited in residential, commercial, or industrial areas within a three-kilometre radius. Investigation, however, discovered that the operation of the China Kaidi quarry is just less than 60 meters from the 13 communities in Orogbangba.
Using Google Earth to measure the distance from the quarry site to the last building in Orogbangba, it was discovered that the distance is less than three kilometres, which is against the recommended environmental regulation.
Orogbangba cracked communities
Investigations showed that the continuous blasting of rocks by China Kaidi Company had caused significant damage to many homes across Orogbangba town and made some unsafe to live in.
It was learnt that for some time now, no new building has been constructed due to fears of imminent collapse.
While touring the thirteen communities in Orogbangba, our correspondent observed that several structures, fences and roofs of several houses appeared as if they would collapse at any moment.
Gaping cracks were like a unifying architectural signature on practically all the houses.
It was learnt that remedial efforts made to repair damages done to the buildings are usually destroyed as soon as they are carried out.
The residents complained that the rock blasting and stone crushing process carried out by the company is not time-specific, as it can happen anytime.
Although the residents claimed the quarry company is located on the outskirt of a neighbouring town, Eiyenkorin, they claimed to be the ones suffering from the negative impacts of its activities.
Investigating impacts of blasts, vibrations on structures
To ascertain how a blast and vibration from a quarry site can cause cracks in walls, some researchers from Norwegian Geotechnical Institute embarked on an investigation.
They discovered that construction activities such as blasting can produce vibrations of sufficient strength to cause damage to neighbouring buildings and structures.
The homeowner, who is in her 50s, blamed the quarry company for making her incur financial losses.
With frustration etched on her face, she lamented, “There is no how you will not feel the impact of the blast when they start. The whole house will be vibrating terribly. You will think the world wants to end.
“I have done several renovations. While constructing my house, it collapsed about four times. At a point, I had to pull it down to start all over again.
“The activities of the Chinese company are really affecting us. We want the government to intervene and stop them from blasting rocks,” she said.
Nusirat is not the only one that had to carry out a series of renovations on their homes. Other residents that spoke with PUNCH Healthwise were also facing the same dilemma.
When a part of her house collapsed, Haleemat Qazeem was forced to put up with a friend due to safety concerns.
She bemoaned the fact that despite numerous renovations carried out after, cracks continued to appear on the structure.
Recounting one of his bad experiences, he said, “There was a time I wanted to sell land to a prospective buyer. We agreed on a price and he asked me to send my account details so that he can pay. While we were still discussing, there was a blast.
“The man had to run for his life. I was not really surprised by the blast because it has become a normal way of life for us here but the man was scared. All efforts to convince the buyer that the place was safe, failed. That single incident discouraged him from buying any land here.”
The CDA chairman also lamented that businesses are wounding up in the community, adding, “Many people are leaving the town because they can’t cope. Businesses are collapsing and this will affect development.”
The quarry’s operation
An investigation showed that the company uses explosives to blast rocks before crushing them into various sizes for sale.
It was learnt that after blasting the rocks, the Chinese-owned quarry extracts minerals like limestone, basalt, granite, gravel, and crushed rocks, which are then sold.
Also corroborating his claim, the CDA chairman said, Ishaq said, “They know the time the explosion will happen and during the period, they will ask vehicles to wait. When the rock explodes, it can cause heavy vibrations and many things dangerous objects would be flying around.
“We that live close to them suffer the most. The force of the blast can throw someone away. We have instances where flying rocks from the blasting site entered houses in the town. It is God that has been saving us here.” (The PUNCH)