By Awa B. Bah
The National Assembly (NA) Select Committee on the Environment, continued with their visit to mining sites and environmental hot spots during the course of last week. As part of its mandate, the NA select committee on the environment is assigned to assess environmental challenges and make recommendations to Government.
On day three, the Committee visited the NESSIM Fishmeal Factory at Sanyang, where the team discovered that the factory does not have the right equipment to do their work, and recommended for the authorities to close the factory immediately, until the time they have the right equipment to do the job.
The committee during their visit to the newly erected facility, discovered that the Company operates fully with nine tonnes of fish daily, without a proper water treatment plant as required by the environment guidelines of their operating licence. The Fishmeal Company started operations in November last year, in the coastal village of Sanyang. The factory buys fish mainly from local fishermen within Sanyang and beyond.
At its beginning, the factory was said to have been widely welcomed by villagers; but that this has changed as the inhabitants of Sanyang and environ, lament the serious health and environmental implications of the factory.
Upon arrival at the gate of the factory, the members of the NA Select Committee on the Environment met with Officials of the Company who are all Chinese nationals. The Officials declined exchanging words with the delegation, claiming they cannot speak English. The delegation was also denied access to the main entrance of the factory, as the main gate was closed while processing continued inside at that material time. A Mauritanian national who later approached the Members of the NA Select Committee, had a brief conversation with the delegation and were allowed in afterwards. All Chinese nationals present in the factory at the time, declined to talk to Members of the delegation. One Sheriff Bojang led the delegation into the processing facilities of the Fishmeal Company where a huge mound of fish was dumped in sewage water, with swarms of flies all over. It was impossible for anyone to enter this processing facility, without covering one’s nose, because of the unbearable stench of the foul odour.
Women gardeners in the village also decried their loss to the Company because of the toxic waste discharges that flows into their gardens. They called for the intervention of the authorities with immediacy.
Young people who spoke to this reporter decried the presence of the fishmeal factory in their community as a total blunder for the people of Sanyang and environ. They asserted that if the situation persists, they will demonstrate to show the authorities their frustration. According to the Expert member of the committee, the waste discharged by the factory, causes more harm than good for the country; that the toxic discharge from the factory will not only kill the mangrove vegetation, but all marine life as well. Sanyang is said to be known for its tourist attraction; that sixty percent of the tourists who visit the Gambia, settle in Sanyang village. The villagers lament that this has caused a big loss to those engaged in the tourist business in particular and the country in general, because of the unbearable foul stench from the factory.
At the end of their visit, the committee called for the management of the Company to cease operation until they are ready with their investigations; that the country needs development with lots of processing factories but with dignity and respect for human rights and the environment.
The situation at the NESSIM Fishmeal Factory was a big concern for the NA Environment delegation that they called for Government to revoke their Operation licence with immediate effect, and further made recommendations for Government to look thoroughly into such Companies before their establishment and eventual operation.