Following the anti-environmental and maritime exploitation protest marches held in Kartong and Gunjur, in which a Chinese company, was allegedly accused of polluting the environment, Gambia’s Fisheries Minister James Gomez, has granted an Exclusive Interview to Freedom Radio Gambia, and the Freedom Newspaper, by shedding light on the controversy surrounding the story. The Minister said some Gambian and Senegalese fishermen have since been arrested in connection with the illegal dumping of a large catchment of juvenile fish along the coastal villages of Kartong and Gunjur respectively. However, Mr. Gomez tells Freedom Radio Gambia that the communities in the area have wholeheartedly welcomed the Chinese company, which is operating in their localities contrary to what the protesters have claimed. “The information is not… the people of Gunjur didn’t complain. Our fishing inspector on the ground realized that there was dumping of fish in Gunjur and it went to Kartong. So, we sent people on the ground to find out. What we find out was that some fishermen were using wrong fishing gears to capture juvenile fish from the coastal waters. They decided to dump the fish in the coastal communities of Gunjur and Kartong. We were able to apprehend who did this and they have been told to clear all the fish and take it to the right dumping site,” said Minister Gomez.
Gomez also said there is a Mauritanian fishing company in Kartong, which is yet to kick off operations. Yet some people are complaining against the company.
“I went to Kartong on Saturday, and find some people demonstrating for a factory that has not even started operating. And my question to them was: Who have you contacted if you have a complain? They never contacted my Ministry, nor the Ministry of Environment. They have never written to us. I then told them that since I am here can you select four people so that we can go to the Alkalo, and sit down and talk. They were even not able to select four people among themselves. So, I gave them my contact details and told them that if you want to discuss anything or complain call my office, and we can sit down and talk about these issues. But they have not called me yet,” he added.
Mr. Gomez said even the village Alkalos in the aforementioned areas have welcomed the Chinese project. “ You see Pa, what is more interesting, you should contact the Alkalos of these communities and see whether you will get the same information that you are being told. I was with both Alkalos on Saturday, and they all welcomed this. They said this will bring to our communities job to our young people. This will bring trade to our people. They gave me examples how many people are working in that industry. How many people are going to the market now. How many people are selling fish. How many people are drying fish etc, etc,” he added.
The protesters request for the Chinese company to be relocated is not going to happen. Hear Minister Gomez: “ But who is the government? You think any government will accept people would just come and say relocate this and.. Have they done an environmental study; the people that are demonstrating? Have they done an environmental study that can tell you that if this is situated here it will create a problem? When these people applied, they had to do certain things. The authority has to begin to say okay, if this factory is here, what is the impact? All the studies were done before the authority was given for them to start that factory. So, do you think my brother, any government would just sit and when a group come and say we don’t want this in this area and let move it to another place? And another group say let remove it and move it to another place. I don’t think you will advise any government to do that.”
For the full text of the Q and A interview we had with Minister Gomez, read our Tuesday paper. The radio interview will air during our Tuesday News Analysis show. Stay tuned.