By Yankuba Jallow and Hatab Nyang
On 20th May, 2017 protesters at Kartong wrote a letter to the Minister of Fisheries on matters concerning the fisheries sector which they claim is causing coastal pollution.
According to them, the letter was written to the Minister to avoid the environmental pollution that is happening in Gunjur which is said to be caused by Golden Lead Import and Export Company.
They said Kartong in the year 2009 was gazetted as an Eco-Tourism village where the village will conserve the natural environment and protect the Eco-System from physical damage by construction of low impact facilities. They argued that the concept of Eco-Tourism in Kartong is to build environmental and cultural awareness and recognise the rights and sacred beliefs of indigenous people in the community and provide direct financial benefits for conservation of the environment.
“The principles of Eco-Tourism in Kartong are to provide positive experience for both tourist visitors and their hosts in order to generate financial benefits for local people and their businesses” they said.
According to them, Kartong is the first and only Eco-Tourism village in The Gambia and the community in conjunction with the Gambia Tourism Board, UNDP and other International Organisations pledge their untiring efforts to protect the natural heritage of the remaining flora (plants) and Fauna (animals) in Kartong and its people. The place has a long lagoon called Halahin Bolong and its situated in Kartong and hundreds of local people’s livelihood depend on this Bolong coupled with Eco friendly beaches, bars, restaurants and lodges employing hundreds of people.
They claim that an undesirable and dangerous scent is released from a factory and every living in the lagoon is dying including fish and the water turns red. They further claim that a pipeline runs from the factory into the ocean discharging untreated waste, thus killing marine lives and causing skin diseases to unsuspecting swimmers and other sea users.
“Swimming in the Sea in Gunjur is to swim at your own peril” they said. The letter contains 21 issues that the petitioners raise for the minister to look into and help to quell the situation.
The issues raised are: Is Kartong as Eco-Tourism village finished, how will the authorities protect the Kartong River and Ocean from toxic pollution, where there any Environmental Impact Assessment been done before allowing the construction of the Factory in Kartong, how will the Factory co-exist with tourism, how will the bad and dangerous odour nuisance to the people living in the area be controlled, how will the factory control air pollution in the area, how will the mangrove eco-system be protected, how will the fish population be protected from depletion due to over fishing, how will the women working in the oyster industry on the Kartong River be prevented from pollution and environmental hazards, who will clean up the mess generated by this factory after closure, how did they acquire the land on which they are building the Factory, why was the community not consulted before building the Factory, what type of production will be taking place in this Factory, what type of chemicals would the Factory be using in their production, how harmful are these chemicals, what type of fish will they be processing, what value will this Factory add to the conservation of the environment, how will the National Environmental Agency monitor this Factory to ensure that the waste products are not dumped into our River or Ocean, how will this factory be supervised and monitored by the community to report any violations, will this Factory be using fishing trawlers from China and or use local fishing boats and how many tonnes of fish will this factory be using a day and how will this be monitored?