Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:23 am (KSA) 21:23 pm (GMT)

Kuwait MP wants to grill premier over pollution

Kuwaiti opposition lawmaker Khaled al-Tahus addresses the media
Kuwaiti opposition lawmaker Khaled al-Tahus addresses the media

Kuwaiti opposition lawmaker Khaled al-Tahus on Sunday filed a petition to question the prime minister over alleged inaction on pollution in a residential area in the oil-rich southern region.

"This is a humanitarian grilling in the first place. I filed the request after all my attempts to resolve the pollution problem have failed," Tahus said after filing the request to question Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah in parliament.

 This is a humanitarian grilling in the first place. I filed the request after all my attempts to resolve the pollution problem have failed 
Kuwaiti opposition lawmaker Khaled al-Tahus

Tahus, a member of the opposition Popular Action Bloc, had repeatedly warned he would question the premier if the government did not shut several polluting industrial facilities.

Residents of the Ali Sabah Al-Salem area, 55 kilometers (35 miles) south of Kuwait City, have repeatedly complained that excessive pollution from oil and chemical facilities posed a serious health hazard.

Earlier this month about 15,000 students from the area, which has a population of 45,000 and is surrounded by many oil facilities and Kuwait's three oil refineries, went on a two-day school strike to draw attention to their plight.

Tahus alleged in his petition that state institutions had failed to apply the law on polluting plants and that the prime minister should be held responsible for this failure as the head of the government since 2006.

Government inaction has resulted in converting Ali Sabah Al-Salem into an "environmental disaster area" with a sharp rise in diseases that far exceeded levels in other residential areas, the lawmaker said.

Several government commissions have over the past few years recommended that a number of close to 150 plants be removed from the area and others forced to abide by environment standards, but nothing was implemented, he said.

The pollution issue in the area was debated several times in parliament and the government was accused of having ignored an official commission's warning when it decided to develop a residential zone in the area in the mid-1990s.

The government said it has repeatedly cautioned factories with high toxic emissions and sometimes shut them temporarily, but the pollution has persisted.

Tahus claimed in his grilling that a number of the factories in the area were built without licenses, while others received a license without fulfilling environment conditions.

Almost all the oil facilities and about 150 chemical and industrial plants, which emit highly toxic gases, lie to the north of the residential area, in a country where wind blows southward for most of the year.

Sheikh Nasser, a nephew of the emir, became the first Kuwaiti premier to be grilled in parliament last November, which led to a failed attempt to have him unseated over alleged corruption.

Since his appointment to the post in February 2006, Kuwait has witnessed a series of political crises that led to the resignation of five cabinets and dissolution of three parliaments.

After a petition is filed the premier must appear before parliament. The questioning is expected after two weeks and could lead to a motion to unseat him.

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