Gambian government must act now to stop environmental destruction in Gunjur

Ebrima Scattred Janneh: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 May 2021:

This story was first published in the Sierra Leone Telegraph on 14 April 2021, and is once again being re-published by popular demand, after serious concerns in Sierra Leone about a proposal for a similar fish farming project in the capital Freetown.

The perilous activities of Chinese fish meal factories in the coastal towns of the Gambia, such as Gunjur, are causing extreme and irreparable damage to the environment, as well as destroying the lives and livelihoods of local people and their communities.

Not only are they emitting untreated industrial waste into the ocean, in landfills, and local lagoons but the stench from the factories is unbearable for local people, with tremendous health hazards.

Because of China’s hidden strategy to nationalise our resources to feed its insatiable appetite for economic development,  fish meal factory owners in the Gambia are paying pittance to those in authority – through bribery and corruption, in order to achieve their grand strategy of taking control of Gambia’s potential export quotas. (Photo below: Golden Lead Fish Meal Factory in Gunjur, The Gambia).

As overseas business interests and attractive global prices for fish meal drive higher demand, a crucial source of protein is being taken away from the plates of the poorest Gambians while leaving many in the communities out of work.

Today, jet-setting Chinese businessmen arriving in ever greater numbers in The Gambia are exploiting our resources with no regard for the damage they are inflicting on the local environment, our health, local employment, food security, the eco-tourism economy and community security.

I spent my formative years enjoying healthy symbiotic relationship with our leafy forest covers, white sandy coastline, shoreline, sand dunes and a lagoon – once a lush habitat for remarkable wildlife, etc. To therefore, watch these childhood idylls flattened into barren desert by the industrial activities of greedy and rapacious businessmen is hard to stomach.

The coastline and the surroundings were our national parks and playgrounds. We used to play football, exercised and slide on the sand dunes as boys. I had great memories of picnics on the coastline, walking sometimes in companionable silence with friends. It is therefore, with great sadness to see our pristine coastline being destroyed and seemingly irrevocably.

The unchecked destruction of our environment by commercial sand miners and Chinese fish meal factories have stripped the ecosystem of much-loved, once beauty of Gunjur.

The ocean, alas, is not safe anymore because of Chinese fish meal processing factories emitting unknown industrial chemical waste into the sea.

The beach that was once loved by locals and tourists are now mostly covered in reeking fish carcasses that are brought by fisher men to the fish meal factory. At times there is over-supply of fish and the factory in Gunjur cannot take them all. The fisher men mostly from neighbouring Senegal would dump the unwanted fish stock into the sea which is then washed to the beaches.

I am deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration due to the government’s inability to do something about the destruction of our environment and livelihoods.

The Gambian government because of corruption and lack of political will has turned a blind eye to the blatant environmental destruction being inflicted on the Gambia by greedy businessmen.

But there are profound risks of ignoring this environmental destruction taking place in coastal towns like Gunjur – the loss of animal species, and the anxiety over what will happen if immediate action is not taken by the authorities.

I worry about the hungry and thirsty cattle roaming on once green lands, scrounging for nourishment. I cry for the turtles that used the sand dunes for laying eggs. The habitat of the most beautiful birds, the foxes, squirrels, rabbits, antelopes, baboons, monkeys are all disappearing.

Above all, these wonderful geological landscapes are gone and along with them – protection against flooding, protection against windstorm, erosion, recreation, wetlands, loss of local vegetation, rice paddies, agricultural lands, horticultural gardens etc.

I am also fearful that we are destroying our environment so fast that our children may no longer enjoy what we enjoyed  growing up.

To therefore mitigate the loss to our environment and the next generation, we must stand-up together to save it from haemorrhaging from the activities of greedy corrupt public officials, corrupt businesses, and corrupt individuals.

Gunjur has been abandoned by our own government and left in the hands of greedy businessmen – all because of bribery and corruption.

The time to act is now because if we keep ignoring this environmental destruction, we will spend many years, if not generations, recovering from the profound damage that is being done to our lives, with severe consequences.

7 Comments

  1. Mr Bennewith, I wonder how you will come up with such outlandish suggestions, that a dictator that sent so many of his fellow Gambians to their death, but not after putting them through torture by the most brutal force man is capable of inflicting on his fellow man. During the Gambian truth commission investigation, ex-prison guards testified before the commission at least 41 people died of torture and poor health condition at Mile 2 prison, called Jammeh’s “Five star Hotel” between 1994 to 2017. Lamin Korta told tbe commission he joined tbe Gambian prison service in 1977; left and rejoined in 1996. But his experience and that of prisoners, and how they were treated between those two peroids were markedly different.

    Jammeh and his national intelligence agency – literally a hit squard, known locally as the “JUNGLES” turned the prison to a torture chamber. In his last act before he left office Jammeh the brutal dictator excecuted foreign nationals from Ghana, Senegal in the mistaken belief that they were coup plotters. These were just immigrants using the Gambia as stop over on their way to Europe. For them the dream of making it to Europe ended in the sadistic hands of Jammeh’s security forces.

    The bad news, Gambia is a member of ECOWAS that promotes free movement of people, didn’t have the courtesy to inform the countries whose national he was about to execute. So maybe if you were living under the iron grip of Yahah Jammeh, you won’t want to see him back. Maybe his best place now is in the international war crimes tribunal in the Hague. Or let the Gambian people try him for the crimes he commited against his prople.

  2. And what exactly do you mean Sir by saying that a Dictator should be allowed to return to his rightful place as Head of State? Hahahah You can’t be serious. Why would anyone in their right mind become an advocate for the return of unbridled brutality,intimidations and repression of individual freedoms that are the telling signs of authoritarian rule because of a problem that diligent secondary school kids can fix? Sincerely,it totally baffles me to see you take the members of this glorious forum for granted and utter such a bizarre statement.

    Most of our people may not know how to think critically for themselves but I can assure you there are individuals on this beautiful African continent that are more than able to measure up to any challenges our people are facing if given the opportunity to do so. Again, if you want wicked Mr Yayah Jammeh to return to power because the Chinese are causing you some inconveniences in the area of Tourism and not out of concern for the wellbeing of our people and the environment, then I think it will be a great idea if you take those self-centered advice of yours elsewhere that are geared it seems towards exploitation – this is a serious matter that needs to be urgently adressed and not a time to start playing superficial games.

  3. African leaders have failed the continent. From fishermen in South East Asian countries to European trawlers, its a massive problem across the West African coastline. The damage to the environment and over fishing in our coastal waters is breath taking. Pirate fishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing especially from China, Korea and Europe, North American countries, targeting species protected by law or the prohibited areas is one of the main drivers of this ocean pollutants. The fact remains, despite the efforts of the maritime organisation based in Senegal to monitor and enforce the laws of the seas in the west African coast line, their small gun boats are no match to the commercial thieving trawlers.

    Once again the scramble for African rain forest, our agricultural lands, and our oceans to feed the appetite of China’s billions population and Pacific regions, and our near neighbours in the North Atlantic goes unchecked. To say we are heading for environmental armageddon is an understatement. The fact remains China or any European government will not allow African fishermen in their waters. And some of the activities of their citizens and the environmental damage they cause in our waters, if repeated in their own countries, they will be punished. But when you have politicians in Africa that have sold their soul to the highest bidder, what do you expect?

  4. Ebrima, thanks for this powerful revelation. I know Gunjur very well, and I am absolutely shocked to see such wanton destruction in the community. I feel deeply saddened. I did research work in the Gambia and lived there for three years. The impact of the fish processing factories on tourism in the country will be far greater than what the military coup brought. Tourism is Gambia’s economic lifeblood, and it is so, so stupid to see Barrow destroying his own country for pittance. Gambia is such a beautiful country.

  5. Mr Janneh – it always makes me deeply elated and overwhelmed with gratitude,satisfaction, joy,and pride whenever I meet individuals that cherish,support and protect their environment. He who cares about the environment is called a “Mahatma”(a great loving soul). Existence has chosen you as her trusted custodian and witness to the systematic destruction of what was once an enchanting place called planet Earth. There are no coincidences in this game of life only perplexing realities we must all deal with. But things cannot continue like this. We cannot let the greed of a handful of evil people flush away the daily livelihoods of millions of our people struggling to make ends meet.

    The story in the Gambia is the same everywhere in Africa – it can be referred to as the “One Size Fits Us All Phenomena”. The same criminals can be seen everywhere,and the same gullible people succumbing to the same played out dubious tricks over and over again. Goodness gracious! What kinds of people are we and how did we become so rotten, yucky and slimy in nature? Indeed, it is only in dark Africa that foreign entities are given free licence to rape, pollute and destroy the environment – Only in Africa will you see our public officials crawling behind the Chinese, Americans and Europeans – wailing like infants for handouts.

    Its time to hold these people accountable by ourselves. We can no longer wait for leaders to do it for us because they won’t – their eyes are clouded with greed for money and power. We need a grass roots organisation like Greenpeace that will go after big polluters, smoke them out of their hiding place and hold them accountable. Enough is Enough. The time for half-hearted, empty rhetoric has passed: Its now time to sit up, brace ourselves and act decisively in the interest of our poor people. Time waits for no man – its now time to Organise and Strategize in order to salvage whatever is now left of our fragile, crumbling nations. Words to the wise.

  6. Such recklessness attitude by an inept regime is what makes the citizenry missed the former President – Yahya Jameh.

  7. Maybe we should ask for the return of the one man that welcomed the tourists and visitors Back to his home and rightful place as head of state in The Gambia

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