Stand with Vindoulou for a safe environment

For too long, residents of Vindoulou have been sounding the alarm about the Metssa Congo factory’s impact on their neighbourhood. The factory, which is close to people’s homes and just 50m from a large school, emits thick, foul-smelling black fumes day and night. Act now to demand an immediate investigation into the Metssa Congo factory’s impact on human rights, followed by immediate action to remedy any harm. 

What’s the problem?

The Metssa Congo factory, which recycles used batteries and industrial products containing lead and aluminium, has been emitting toxic smoke daily into the air surrounding people’s homes in Vindoulou for many years. Shockingly, it sits a mere 50 metres from a large school, putting the health and wellbeing of hundreds of children at risk.

Residents have voiced their concerns repeatedly, highlighting their frequent headaches, stomach aches, and respiratory issues since Metssa started operating. One of the teachers at the school said: “Children regularly vomit and cough a lot, especially when there is a lot of smoke. The children are breathing these fumes; it stings their eyes and throats. Sometimes we have to take them out of classes to allow them to breathe better and give them water”.

In August 2020, the factory was temporarily closed by the prefect due to these concerns and the absence of proper environmental impact assessments. The company paid for clinical examinations for residents during the closure, but the results of the various tests were not shared with them thereafter.

In November 2020, the Ministry of Environment authorised the company to resume operations, but said that it should complete steps to bring the site in line with environmental standards within a period of three months.

Metssa Congo, however, continues to deny the toxic nature of its emissions and insists it possesses all necessary legal documents to operate. It claims that there are no long-term risks associated with their operations. But blood tests conducted in March 2023 revealed alarming levels of lead in residents’ bloodstreams, far exceeding the WHO threshold for clinical interventions.

The collective of Vindoulou residents has taken legal action, filing a complaint in June 2023 to suspend and relocate the factory, demanding reparations for the harm caused.

The Congolese authorities must investigate this case and, and if the results confirm the negative impact on human rights, take immediate remedial action for the residents of Vindoulou, including relocating the recycling company Metssa Congo to an industrial area.

It’s time for residents of Vindoulou to have their voices heard, and that their health and wellbeing become a priority for the Congo government, in line with national and international law and standards.

This must be followed by immediate action to remedy any harms identified, which may include reparations for residents and the relocation of the factory.  

What you can do to help

Together, let us stand in solidarity with the people of Vindoulou. Add your voice to theirs: Send an email to urge the Congolese authorities and Metssa Congo to immediately undertake transparent and thorough investigations into the impact of Metssa’s operations, make the results public, and if the results confirm the negative impact on human rights, take immediate remedial action for the residents of Vindoulou.