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Kaspi Municipality Council’s New Choice faction representative, Mikheil Bekauri, in his interview with FactCheck,

stated: “Because of the cement dust, the highest number of people with cancer is in Kaspi.” The largest cement factory in Kaspi is owned by the German company, HeidelbergCement. Further according to Mr Bekauri: “The environment is mostly polluted by HeidelbergCement.”

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took interest in the accuracy of Mikheil Bekauri’s statement.

Kaspi’s cement factory, Saktsementi, mentioned by Mikheil Bekauri, became functional in 1958 and has been owned by the HeidelbergCement Georgia company since 2007. The factory uses the wet method of cement production (local coal is used as fuel), covering the entire production process:  limestone excavation and grinding, blending, fuel preparation, clinker burning and grinding the produced cement and then reloading it for packing and storing.

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took interest in the extent to which the factory meets the requirements prescribed by the Law of Georgia on Environmental Impact Permit and whether or not the Kaspi factory has special filters to decrease pollution, among others. According to HeidelbergCement’s information, every area with a concentration of cement dust has filters with extraction arms beginning from 2007. The duration of service for these filters depends upon the installation’s effectiveness coefficient. As stated by HeidelbergCement’s Public Relations Service representative, Nino Tkemaladze: “The company has received an environmental protection permit and spares no effort in observing all of the requirements.”

In his interview with FactCheck,

the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia’s Permits Department representative, Mamuka Zhorzholadze, stated that HeidelbergCement Georgia was verified at the beginning of 2016 in terms of its observance of relevant legal requirements and permit conditions. Mr Zhorzholadze stated: “As a result of the verification, technological violations were revealed and so the court sentenced the factory to pay an administrative fine. In regard to the level of pollution, the respective service took atmospheric samples both at the factory’s territory and outside of the premises and concluded that the amount of hazardous elements in the air outside of the factory did not exceed the allowed margin. However, it exceeded the margin inside the factory’s territory for which the enterprise was fined.”

In order to determine the exact number of patients with cancer in each municipality, FactCheck

contacted the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health. However, determining an exact number is not possible at this time. The National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health’s Public Relations Service representative, Meri Dekanozishvili, stated: “As a result of reforms implemented in the field of healthcare, the dispensary registry system for oncological patients were terminated and oncological patients was transferred under the monitoring of family doctors. This complicated the process of the registration of cases of malevolent tumours which distorted the real picture of the growth of disease. After 1 January 2015, a population-based cancer registry was launched but it will take at least three-to-five years after the registry’s launchin order to collect cumulative data about the spread of cancer and make a summary of the total amount of patients.”

According to the population-based cancer registry’s data from last year, there were 28 new cases of oncological diseases registered in the Kaspi Municipality which is approximately 0.064% of Kaspi’s population (according to the 2015 data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, Kaspi’s populationis 43,700). This means that there are 0.64 cases per 1,000 persons. FactCheck

compared these figures to the data from other Shida Kartli municipalities (Gori, Kareli and Khashuri). The number of cases per 1,000 persons in Gori is 1.64, 0.04 in the Kareli Municipality and 0.2 in the Khashuri Municipality. According to these data, the highest number of patients with oncological diseases (1.64 per 1,000) is registered in the Gori Municipality and not in Kaspi.

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ook interest in the statistics of the previous years as well. However, Kaspi Municipality information is not found in the database of statistics for 2013 although 40 new cases of oncological disease (0.76% of the population) were registered in Kaspi in 2014. This said, the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health indicates that statistics from the previous years are less reliable owing to the population-based method of data calculation used from 2015.

Georgia’s Friends of the Earth green movement representative, Nino Chkhobadze, in her interview with FactCheck,

stated that Kaspi is one of the worst performers in terms of environmental pollution. However, Ms Chkhobadze stated that apart from HeidelbergCement and small-size cement factories, there are plenty of other sources of pollution in Kaspi. She said: “Kaspi is seriously polluted by everyday communal and toxic waste. All of these pollutants are concentrated in the river. Then, this water is used for irrigation which means that agricultural products become contaminated. It is this, exactly, when taken together, which is causing diseases here, including oncological diseases. Therefore, it is impossible to assert or deny that oncological diseases are caused solely by cement, or vice versa.”

Nino Chkhobadze commented further: “It would be a mistake to blame environmental pollution on only one single company because until 2006 (before the cement factory was purchased by HeidelbergCement Utrecht), the factory was polluting the environment at a catastrophic rate. Today, however, HeidelbergCement tries to observe all of the standards required by environmental demands. Additionally, with the exception of HeidelbergCement, there are other small companies which are not interested in environmental protection issues at all.”

Nino Chkhobadze also pointed out the errors in the legislation and noted that the law does not impose the necessary environmental protection standards for companies. She added that the requirements for environmental impact permits are lower as compared to Europe and the only possible way to save the environment from pollution is to make the law stricter.

Conclusion As determined by the FactCheck,

according to the latest verification of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, the level of hazardous materials outside the HeidelbergCement factory did not exceed the norm. Therefore, these data do not prove that the company is a hotspot for Kaspi’s environmental pollution. However, pollution levels have been registered on the immediate territory of the factory. At the same time, other small cement factories in Kaspi which, as opposed to HeidelbergCement, are less compliant in following environmental standards might be behind the source of Kaspi’s environmental pollution.

Statistics in regard to oncological disease in previous years are non-existent or very incomplete owing to the launch of the population-based cancer registry which started on 1 January 2015. According to 2015’s data, there were 28 new cases of oncological diseases registered in the Kaspi Municipality which comprise 0.064% of Kaspi’s population. Based upon this indicator, the highest number of new cases of oncological disease in the region was not registered in Kaspi but in the Gori Municipality.

Therefore, Mikheil Bekauri’s statement is MOSTLY FALSE.

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