A new twist in the Golden Lead fish meal factory saga
A new twist in the Golden Lead fish meal factory saga! The Chinese flag flying high..
Focus on Wildlife, Disaster and Environment! While The Gambia is preparing to join the rest of the World in commemoration of Earth Day- 22nd April to demonstrate support for environmental protection, today somewhere along the southern coastline of The Gambia(precisely at Gunjur beach) Golden Lead fish meal processing company is celebrating the renewal of their environmental approval to continue their operation including laying pipes from their factory into the ocean to discharge their chlorinated wastewater. According to the letter from the National Environment Agency, the approval is given on conditions that: Golden Lead shall ensure that treated waste water in the final chamber of the treatment pond in chlorinated before discharge. Also the management of Golden Lead shall lay a discharge pipe (minimum of 350 meters) into the ocean for the purpose of discharging their wastewater. It would be recalled that National Environment Agency (NEA) dragged Golden Lead fishmeal factory management to court in June 2017 on several counts including: discharging waste water from the processing plant into the ocean through connected pipes, withholding information about management of waste, polluting the environment and failure to keep records of activities, products and waste as per the National Environmental Law. However, the court case failed to proceed due to obstruction of justice by the government, and hence the matter was referred to be settled out court between the plaintiff and defendant. One would assume that details of the out of court settlement should be known to all the stakeholders including the community of Gunjur, but that was not the case or if it was known to NEA, then it was not shared with the general public as encourage by the procedure of the EIA process. However Golden Lead implemented Short term measures by transporting the waste water from the processing plant to unknown location out of Gunjur for disposal. National Environment Agency was highly commended for standing firm in ensuring that Golden Lead face the court, despite interference of other Ministries such as Trade and Fisheries. After few months the community discovered a pipe that exposed during low tide from the factory to the ocean, and the factory management were contacted and they denied using the pipe to discharge waste water in the ocean. Despite, their claims, the community gave an ultimatum to remove the pipe, otherwise they will do it themselves.
New waste pipeline connecting Golden Lead Factory to the sea in Gunjur for waste disposal
Now, this new twist by National Environment Agency in issuing environmental approval to Golden Lead to continue on their operation as well as lay a pipe of 350m into the ocean to discharge chlorinated waste water will not only set precedence within coastal zone but it will continue to provide opportunity to Golden Lead to pollute the marine ecosystem, thereby threatening the health of the marine species and humans. There are several hotels located within the coastal, and as far as I am aware non of them are discharging their treated/chlorinated water into the ocean. National Environment Agency encourage and highly recommend hotels to construct their own waste treatment facility to reduce any pollution in the ocean. A good example among the hotels in the Gambia is Ocean Bay hotel in Cape point. They have constructed a good waste treatment plan, and the treated water is use to water garden. Considering the magnitude of Golden Lead's operation, I see no reason why they couldn't follow suit by setting up a standard treatment plan within their facility? In view of Golden Lead's recent history of environmental violations, we cannot be trusted to discharge into our ocean. The reasons being, there is a high chance of them committing similar offence with impunity, which could have serious health hazards to the community and beyond, and National Environment Agency will be responsible for any future health problems that surface. On the other hand, research shows that chlorine even in small amount found in tap water, gives marine invertebrates and fish chemical burns. In fish, chlorine burns the gills, at the same it absorbs into the bloodstream and causes burns throughout the fish.
Letter from NEA allegedly approving disposal of factory waste into the sea
As a public institution, the National Environment Agency as well as the Ministry of Environment needs to open their doors to public on environmental issues in the country as well respond to concerns where necessary to encourage public participation in environmental management. Therefore regular updates/press conferences to enhance environmental education communication is very necessary, especially in this Golden Lead saga where clouds still remains hanging on the heads of politicians and the government of the Gambia. Infact before renewing the environmental approval it would have been appropriate to engage the media and all stakeholders for adequate briefing to justify the reasons for issuing Golden Lead an environmental approval. Going by the letter from NEA, neither the Alkalo, VDC or Gunjur Environmental Development Group are copied on the letter. So how does the agency communicate and involved the organisations who are mostly affected by the operation of the fishmeal factory? Finally, I have this strong conviction that Golden Lead is up to no good, they are overexploiting our resources, at the same time violating our environmental laws with impunity under the watchful eyes of our government. There is no point in making laws if we cannot enforce them.. Golden Lead must face the court or get close down! NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW. Professionalism and integrity and fear of Allah must always guide our actions.
Famara Drammeh is a native of Brufut, with 20 years experience working for the government of Gambia at the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management and National Environment Agency. He completed certificate and diploma courses in wildlife management at College of African Wildlife Management in Tanzania from 1997-2000. Famara went on to obtain his Masters degree in Biodiversity and conservation at the University of Roehampton, UK in 2003/4. He is also a United Nations fellow on Climate Change and Law of the Sea.