By Hatab Nyang
A group of mainly women and youth were engaged in a protest in Sanyang, Kombo South District on Wednesday 2 January 2019 on matters related to the fishmeal factory in Sanyang.
The protestors say they were displeased because the NEA failed to turn up at a purported scheduled meeting.
Waste pipes that were laid by the Nissim Fish and Fish Production Company (NFFPC) located at Sanyang beach, were excavated and burned down on 5 December 2018, resulting in the eventual arrests of four persons who were granted bail.
Protestors told Foroyaa that this meeting was set up for both parties to come to terms as many people in Sanyang beach are dissatisfied with the disposal of the said factory’s waste and the bad odour that is coming from it.
Speaking at the scene of the protest, Lamin Jawla commonly called Jawla, proprietor and owner of Rainbow Beach Bar and Restaurant said he had sacrificed everything, including his previous job at Kairaba Beach Hotel (KBH) where he was working for ten years to set up his business at Sanyang Beach.
Mr.Jawla said when he was working at Kairaba Beach Hotel, holiday makers always told him that they had been to a special beach called Sanyang Beach not knowing he (Jawla) was from Sanyang. He said they would tell him that it’s beautiful there but they could not stay because of lack of good toilet facilities.
“Because of this, I sacrificed my job at KBH to go back to my native village which is Sanyang to make a difference in the year 2000 with only D3000. Today I employ 35 people from Sanyang, most of whom are either school dropouts or have never been to school at all, they have families to take care of and most of them are women.
“The best fresh sea food that a tourist can have is on Sanyang beach which is now fading away as now there is scarcity of fish since the inception of this factory on our beach. 2018-2019 tourist season is the hardest tourist season to have fish for the tourist to eat,” Jawla lamented.
He asked why the government of the day is destroying tourism in the country, pointing out that this fishmeal factory is destroying tourism by pumping waste water into our sea and the bad odour that is coming from the factory that the tourists and tour operators are complaining of everyday.
“Since the inception of this factory at Sanyang beach, our health has been at stake as never before,” he asserted.
He claimed that the majority of the people who supply the factory with fish are from neighbouring countries, adding that none of the boats that are supplying this factory are Gambian boats. He said before the establishment of this factory, all the fish caught at Sanyang were bought by restaurants along the beach and at local markets.
Dr. Momodou Samega Janneh a resident in Sanyang said the fish meal factory was located on the beach without the consent of the villagers and that caused excavation and burning down of their waste pipes. He noted that was why they arranged a meeting with NEA, DG of West Coast Region, Chief of Kombo South District and the Alkalo of Sanyang to make sure NEA are aware of what is going on. “We are just making sure peace and truth prevail,” he noted.
Dr.Janneh said they pointed out to the NEA in that meeting that the fishmeal waste pipe that is meant for the sea is supposed to go in sea for 350 metres but that the factory laid the pipe for only 50 metres. He asserted that whatever the factory is discharging into our sea is coming back to the beach.
According to Dr. Janneh, the NEA promised to meet with them on Monday but they did not turn up. He remarked: “They said again today Wednesday they did not come and now they are saying they were on the beach but they couldn’t find any one,” then multitudes of people at the protest started shouting “that is not true, NEA were not here as we were here since early in the morning waiting for them’,” Dr Janneh narrated.
“Nissim Fish and Fish Production Company (NFFPC) can tell us not to enter their factory but they have no right to pollute our environment and lay the waste pipe into our sea. For example, if one has a bathroom in your house and put the pipe into the road, the NEA will ask you to remove it or they will arrest you, then why does the fishmeal factory lay their waste pipe all the way to our sea and polluting it?” Dr.Janneh lamented.
“In 1982 when there was nothing on Sanyang beach, Scan Gambia Fish Production Company, built a road all the way to Sanyang beach and went far away from people to put their factory and nobody was complaining about them.
“This fishmeal factory came in 2018 built their factory in the midst of the people, laid their industrial waste pipe into our sea, pollute the area and they know FAO had already specified the minimum standard that is required but this factory has gone against that,” asserted Dr. Janneh .
NFFPC told this reporter that they had a treatment plant with the requirements but they did not allow this reporter and other journalists to visit their factory to verify this information.
Margaret Robertson a British national, a conservationist and environmentalist presently staying at Sanyang beach, told Foroyaa that she has been coming to the Gambia since 1998. She said when she went to Gunjur beach few days ago, she was profoundly shocked by the pollution of the sea and the air in the vicinity of the fish meal factory. She said in Sanyang beach too she’s shocked by the same thing, pointing out that this is seriously discouraging tourism.
“In my opinion this is environmental disaster and I cannot understand why Gambia government is allowing this to continue,” Madam Robertson said.
Fishermen in Sanyang beach also claim that boats that supply the factory use nets with very tiny holes that catches all kinds of fish either small or big. They said this should not be encouraged by the government.
Kaddy Sambou commonly called ‘Asalon’ speaking for the women on Sanyang beach echoed similar views, adding that such people mostly come out for fishing late in the evening when many people have gone home.
“We smoke fish on the beach but during the night we cannot breathe because of the bad odour coming from the factory. I am appealing to the government to come to our aid,” Madam Sambou added.