Hundreds of youths from a Gambian coastal fishing town of Gunjur, about 25 minutes drive from Banjul, have protested against a Chinese company that the locals say is polluting their environment and sea.
Golden Lead, a Chinese fishmeal processing plant, is accused of disposing suspected toxic waste into the sea via pipes, resulting in the washing ashore of dead fish along the coastline.
Prominent Gambian activist and native of the community, Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh, led the youths to forcibly dig out the pipes without a court order.
Janneh made a promise on social media last week that if the government failed to act, he will lead the community to remove the company’s pipes from the sea and “face any consequences.”
A youth leader in the community, Lamin Jassey said that they have given the Chinese a week deadline to remove the pipes but they didn’t comply.
“We had a dialogue with them last week to inform them that we are removing the pipes on Thursday…The Chinese company director said we should not remove the pipes and that the National Environmental Agency will remove the pipes…,” Jassey said.
The Chinese plant nevertheless said they are now building a treatment plant and that they have not though removed the pipes but it has stopped pumping waste into the sea.
About two months ago, Gambia National Environment Agency has dragged Golden Lead to court over alleged violation of the environmental laws of the country.
The company has been charged with withholding information about management of waste, discharging substance of wastewater into the sea, polluting the environment and failure to keep a record of their company activities.
However, a week after government’s legal action against the company, the state announced they have reached an out of court settlement and Golden Lead will withdraw its pipes from the sea.
Meanwhile, the Gunjur natives are demanding a $329,589 [$16 million dalasis] compensation for the damage done to their environment in a lawsuit initiated against the company at the High Court about four months ago.
The case has had only a day in court and has since stalled.
Analysts said the legal battle against the Chinese company was halted because it presented a special discomfort to the Barrow administration that has renewed its ties with Beijing.
Banjul resumed ties with China in March 2016, but the Asian giant was already one of the small nation’s top trading partners.
The Chinese have canceled millions of United States dollars of debt owed by The Gambia in 2017 and are currently building a multi-million dollar conference center for the country.
The Asian giant has also approved a grant of U.S$75 million for the construction of Basse, Fatoto and Koina roads. As part of the same fund, China will also build two bridges at the Basse-Wulli and Fatoto-Passamass crossings and the grant has already been tabled before lawmakers last week.
(Reporting and Writing by Mustapha Darboe; Sourcing from The Torch; Editing by Sam Phatey)