By Madi Jobarteh
A severe national security threat is unfolding in Gunjur, the hometown of the Majority Leader Kebba K Barrow. There is a Chinese company engaged in fishmeal production, which dumps its waste and dead fish along the coastline and neighboring communities. The factory releases intense bad odour making people sick as well as destroying our fish reserves and polluting the waters. This is a direct threat to the lives and livelihoods of the people of Gunjur, Kombo and the Gambia as a whole. Yet this company called Golden Leaf Factory continues to operate unchecked by the Government since last year until today, four months into the administration of Adama Barrow. Why?
Two Chinese, Robin and Jojo run the factory without any Gambian partners and under no check by any authority. They produce fishmeal or fish oil, which is made out of fish and used to feed poultry, pigs and other farmed fish. According to FAO fishmeal production is a major contributor to over-fishing and prevents fish from replenishing themselves thereby causing the collapse of local fisheries. This is because the fish used for fishmeal are small fishes like the ones our fishermen catch in Gunjur, Kartong, Tanji, Bakau or Banjul. After almost depleting their fish resources in China, now Chinese fishmeal companies have turned to West Africa and South America causing havoc in countries like Senegal, Chile and Peru. Experts have noted that fishmeal is a source of terrible environmental damage and human suffering.
So far Golden Leaf Factory is engaged in over-fishing in Gunjur and Kartong and destroying the coastline as well as the Bolongfehyoto wildlife reserve. The bad and dangerous odour the factory releases into the community is unbearable. Experts have noted that the factory right now threatens the productivity of sea grass, which marine turtles feed on. They also threaten the mangrove ecosystem because of the chemical waste they dump. This factory is therefore a threat to tourism and the economy of the Gambia. What is even more disheartening is that the fish they catch is not used for human consumption. Rather they use it to make fishmeal for animals all the way in China! But they are ready to destroy our lives all the way in the Gambia.
Who gave this company license to operate in the Gambia in the first place? Was there any social and environmental impact assessments done before they were awarded the license? Why would the responsible and relevant agencies of the government sit down to allow such abuse of the lives and future of the Gambia to take place with impunity?
Where is the National Assembly, the Ministries of Fisheries and Water Resources, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Tourism, the NEA, NDMA, GIEPA and GTB and indeed the Police? All these agencies have a direct responsibility and stake in any activity that negatively impacts on the lives, livelihoods and future of the Gambia. Yet they all sit there watching a foreign company plunder our lives and livelihoods for free! What about GCCI? Are they not aware of this practice by this company and what actions have they taken to ensure decent and responsible practices by businesses in the country?
I therefore call on the Speaker of the National Assembly Mariam Denton and her deputy Momodou Sanneh and the Majority Leader Kebba K Barrow and the Monitory Leader Samba Jallow and indeed all National Assembly Members to institute a parliamentary enquiry into this matter. Failure to do so, the National Assembly would be failing in their sacred duty to the Gambia. This matter is 100% within the powers and authority of the National Assembly to address and they must address it now. Golden Leaf Factory is destroying our lives and livelihoods with impunity!
I call on Chief Servant Adama Barrow to demand his relevant ministries and state agencies to act on this matter with urgency. The ocean is a major source of life and livelihood for the communities of Kombo and the Gambia as a whole. Tourism alone account for 21.9% of our GDP and providing 18.8% of jobs in the country hence the ocean is a precious product of this industry that must be protected. Thus any threat to the ocean affects thousands of Gambians for employment and for food. Why therefore would this company be given license to damage our future and lives with impunity?
The Gambia Government and indeed all African governments must be wary of Chinese companies. This is because the Chinese have proven to the world and Africa in particular that they do not care about human rights, human life and human health in their quest to greedily consume resources around the world. Chinese companies have engaged in unscrupulous and dangerous business practices even in China, how about in faraway tiny Gambia? China has a population of 1.3 billion people and a land size of 9.5 million square kilometers. The Gambia has a population of only 2 million and a land size of 11 thousand square kilometers. Hence what China can afford and waste the Gambia cannot afford that. Therefore we must not allow any foreign company especially from China to come to the Gambia to damage the lives and future of our people. If this is what GIEPA considers to be foreign investment then they are dangerously mistaken!
Whichever government agency gave license to this company must be exposed and held to account. It is clear that they have failed to do an impact assessment or merely ignored the results of such assessment if they did. Secondly this agency has failed to monitor this Chinese company in order to protect the vital interests of the Gambia. This company must not have been allowed to operate in the country at all. They must be closed down! Now.
I therefore call on all Gambians to rise up against this Chinese company and put pressure on the government to expose the truth about the license, the kind of business, the operations and management of this company. What has the Gambia benefited from them? How much money are they making in the Gambia? What damages have done so far? We need to know these issues and make sure they repair all the damages they caused and then close them down. Golden Leaf Factory poses a clear and direct threat to national security.
Gambian journalists should rush down to Gunjur and Kartong and report to us on matters that directly affect our lives. News is not only in Banjul and Serre Kunda. How come such a dangerous environmental, social and economic disaster is taking place in Gunjur since last year yet our journalists could not give it the publicity it deserves! Wake up Gambian Journalists!
Rise up Gambians and do not let our country to continue as usual since Independence. We deserve a better Gambia. We deserve better leadership and good government that is open, efficient and responsive to our needs, in the present and in the future.
God Bless The Gambia.