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Chinese pollution on Gambian coast

Gambia
China
Pollution

Residents from a coastal village in the Gambia are suing a Chinese-owned fishmeal plant accused of pollution.

Campaigners say Golden Lead’s chemical waste pipe runs directly into the sea at Gunjur beach, a protected reserve that lies an hour south of the capital Banjul.

Pollution is not the only problem posed by the factory. Village representatives say the price of bonga fish, the main ingredient of the fishmeal exported as animal feed to China by Golden Lead, has gone up for locals since the factory opened in 2016.

‘They are using the affordable fish, which impoverished people depend on,’ explains environmental activist Badara Bajo.

‘Golden Lead pay better than the local market so it has reduced the amount that fishermen [sic] send to the market,’ says Madi Jobarteh, a local activist. ‘Often the fishmeal factory cannot use all of the fish because some get spoiled when they are in the trucks, and so then they just get dumped on the beach.’

Golden Lead has a licence to process and export three and a half times more fish to Asia annually than the amount currently consumed by all Gambians.

In June 2017, protests held by villagers prompted the Gambian environment agency to file a lawsuit, but this was later settled out of court, with the company promising to remove the waste pipes and to treat water before discharge. In March 2018, finding the pipes still present, locals removed them by force.

Gambia’s new President Adama Barrow is keen to maintain a close relationship with China, seeking investment to build much-needed infrastructure.

Golden Lead reject all allegations. The company’s lawyer said via email: ‘We are negotiating with a view to the amicable resolution of this matter but are yet to reach any agreement.’

Nosmot Gbadamosi

New Internationalist issue 512 magazine cover This article is from the May 2018 issue of New Internationalist.
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