Mustapha Manneh Deplores Environmental Damages in Kombo South
Sunday 27 September | By Yero S. Bah
It is an open secret that Kombo South and North settlements such as Kartong, Gunjur, Tanji and Sanyang are exposed to several environmental crises within the past two decades due to human encroachments. As such, some natives are severely worried over the level of environmental degradations posed by these human activities around that area especially the presence of fishmeal factories brought by the Chine investors.
One such citizen who is gravely concerned is a Gambian journalist and environmentalist Mr. Mustapha Manneh who spoke to GunjurOnline on September 24, 2020 at his native village of Kartong situated few kilometers from the Gambia-Senegal water borders.
Journalist Mustapha Manneh said that, Kartong village has been suffering from environmental damages for years without control from state authorities saying mostly native hardly benefit anything from the exploitation of the natural resources, adding that the presence of foreign fishmeal factories such as the Chinese fishmeal factories have both environmental, economic and social negative impacts on locals. “I was born and brought up in these environmental crises.” he added.
Manneh explained that, sand mining has been happening in Kartong for two decades and the community hardly benefited anything meaningful from that activity which warranted the 2015 civil protest against sand mining in which his organization participated fully as they educated residents on their rights to civil disobedience saying people were made to understand what actually belonged to them during those times.
He noted that, in the past three or four years, there are new crazy investments by the Chinese in the form of Fishmeal factories that sprung up all over the area from Tanji to Kartong villages, adding that deforestation is also another environmental challenge that these communities are faced with which is done by citizens themselves. He also disputed the notion that, foreign investors are creating employment opportunities for the natives in Kartong or Gunjur because the Chinese investors had contracts with bigger fishing vessels that are mainly operated by non-Gambians such as Senegalese or other nationalities within the sub-region. “Instead they are exploiting youth as they work without employment rights or contracts.” he added.
According to him, the youth who work with these Chinese Fishmeal factories are exploited as they have no formal employment contracts, no social security insurance and safety regulations are totally disregarded by their Chinese employers. He believes that, employment should have a meaningful impact on the lives of workers but to him the situation in Kombo South/North is the exact opposite saying local authorities are very weak and mostly VDCs are not functioning because villagers were never consulted in bringing the fishmeal factories in their localities. “Local authorities mostly were never consulted.” he stated.
The journalist and environmentalist said that, in bringing such huge investments, the authorities should have done a proper Environmental Impact Assessment Study in which locals must have been the targeted priorities so that natives would know the dangers and benefits associated with the Chinese investments but a little or none of these protocols were adhered to.
He charged that, one of the social impact of the presence of the factories is that young girls and women are being impregnated by the factory workers, insecurity, frequent theft and the crime rates have increased saying most of the factories’ workers are from different countries in the sub region such as Senegal, Bissau Guinea, and Sierra Leone; adding the impact assessment should have captured these very social challenges brought by the factories.
Besides, on the economic side, local fishmongers are losing businesses as they cannot compete with these foreign investors and this has created some fish scarcity as foreign vessel operators prefer to serve the factory owners than the locals saying government could have purchase fishing boats for Gambian youth to venture into the sector. “A local fishmonger cannot compete with foreign investors who have huge financial muscles.” he asserted.
He said that, Gambian fishermen with fragile fishing boats are no longer able to fish on the waters since the fish stocks have dwindled and only better fishing boats can go deeper into sea for better catches which most Gambian fishermen are not privileged to but Senegalese are. “There is no protection of Gambian fishermen on our seas.” Manneh added.
The environmental consultant also predicts that, there will be mass exodus of Gambian youth leaving for greener pastures whenever the coronavirus is over or controlled saying Gambian youth are totally neglected by their country. He said that, with the current devastation in the tourism sector especially in Kombo South/North, most youth have lost their jobs in the sector but also the level of environmental pollution caused by the fishmeal factories in Kartong, Gunjur, Tanji and Sanyang would definitely discourage tourism activities for good. “This stench is offensive to tourists and locals.” he stated.
Mr. Manneh believes that, the solution to all these challenges is for state authorities to firstly serve state interest before self as he hinted that some public officials are benefiting from these Chinese investments at the detriment of the locals or state.