By Abdoulie John
Gambian activist was let go after the police questioned him over the removal of a waste pipe belonging to Golden Lead, a Chinese fishing company. Located in Gunjur, about 35 km away from Banjul, the fish meal processing factory has been under fire for allegedly pumping toxic waste into the sea, causing environmental hazards and the destruction of the Gambia’s eco-system.
“The police wanted to know what led to the removal of the pipe erected illegally by the Chinese from their factory to the sea,” Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh told reporters shortly after an hour-long face to face with investigators at Gunjur Police station.
Over these past months, Gunjarians have been at loggerheads with the Chinese fish meal processing company over the depletion of the eco-system reportedly linked to toxic waste being evacuated by the factory. This prompted the National Environment Agency (NEA) to take the matter up with the court. Both parties subsequently agreed to settle the issue out of court and that Golden Lead was urged to remove the incriminated waste pipe.
Dr. Janneh said their move was not was done overnight, recalling the a series of consultations they had with the company.
“In some instances, the Ministry of Environment, NEA and their lawyer were in attendance. Part of the settlement that was reached by disputing parties (NEA and the fish company) was for the pipe to be removed by Golden Lead,” he added.
Exasperated by the fact that the company failed to uproot the pipe for several months, the youths took the matter in their hands in raising serious concerns. As a growing anger continues escalate, they gave an ultimatum to the company or else they will go ahead and unearth it.
Dr. Janneh, who was jailed for 10 months by the regime of the ex-dictator Jammeh for distributing T-shirts bearing the slogan “End Dictatorship Now”, said they are not concerned about charges being leveled against them. “We are concerned about our community being polluted. We are concerned about the health and well being of our community.”
The police did not press any charges against Dr. Janneh and his group of environmentalists as the investigation continues. “We’ll be willing to face any charges in defense of our community,” he said, adding that overwhelming majority of Gunjarians share their concerns.
A young resident of Gunjur, Bunama Jatta, re-echoed similar sentiments, deploring the way Gambian authorities failed to act on what appears to be a matter of great concern.
He said the youths gave a one-week ultimatum to the Chinese company to
accede to their demands. It was when the deadline elapsed they decided to take the bull by the horns.
“Government has failed us! They don’t protect our environment, the right for future generations to live in a better world,” he stated.
US-based activist Banka Manneh, who was on the ground throwing his support behind the community of Gunjur, expressed his surprise about the way the matter is being handled.
“I think this is a very sad episode. If there is anybody who should be called for questioning, it should be Golden Lead company. Not Dr. Janneh,” he deplored.
He described the whole issue as a ‘massive government failure’. He then added that if the lives of the people of Gunjur are being threatened, why would some people pretend that is not the case.
When asked if Gunjurians should take the matter up with international juridictions, Banka Manneh said ‘they should take it to any level’.
Golden Lead General Manager Bakary Darboe, said the factory is very helpful to Gunjur. “if we can have factory like this in Gunjur, it can help reduce the unemplyment rate.
Darboe went further to say that what the youths have done was tantamount to “willful damage to property, and should have been arrested that day.
He rubbished claims made by activists that the factory has been discharging environmental into the sea.