Gambian environmentalists to sue 'polluting' Chinese firm

Banjul - Gambian conservationists are suing a Chinese firm they say polluted a lagoon by dumping waste into the sea, their lawyer told AFP on Tuesday, after a government agency settled out of court with the company.

The residents of Gunjur, a Gambian village an hour south of the capital Banjul, complain that toxic waste dumped into the sea has killed fish and affected the health of their community since the Golden Lead fish meal factory opened in September 2016.

"We have filed a civil suit against Golden Lead and are seeking a perpetual injunction against the factory from polluting the atmosphere," Ebrima Jaiteh, lawyer for two environmental groups from Gunjur behind the case, told AFP.

The groups are also seeking an injunction against the factory polluting the sea and nearby lagoon, and the removal of a pipeline into the sea.

"They are secretly discharging waste into the sea. We are also demanding $326 000 from Golden Lead for damages they have caused to the environment," Jaiteh added.

Lamin Camara, a lawyer for Golden Lead, confirmed the company was being sued.

"They are suing Golden Lead for damages; we are not conceding to anything. We are defending ourselves," Camara said.

The case will resume on October 25.

The government is keen to kickstart direct Chinese investment to turn around The Gambia's stuttering economy, but the National Environment Agency (NEA) filed a lawsuit against Golden Lead on June 14 after several complaints.

While both sides agreed an out-of-court settlement, with the firm promising to clean up its act, villagers were dissatisfied with the agreement.

Chinese firms in Africa are frequently accused of polluting the environment to produce materials ready to export back home, in incidents recorded by experts across mines in Guinea, oil fields in Chad and forests in the Congo basin.

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