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City of Banjul
Friday, October 30, 2020

Golden Lead factory pollution incident in Gunjur, water resource management and the relevance of effective environmental legislation and regulations in The Gambia

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By Abdoukarim Sanneh,
London, United Kingdom

Setting rules and regulations under any system of government yields a level playing field for economic growth and social development. In the context of sustainable development, economic growth goes along with environmental protection. The rules in the dynamics of market economy are that business activities and economic investment should be managed in such a way to minimise environmental impact damage. This way for the interest of environmental and corporate governance, International Chamber of Commerce came up with some for standardisation such 1SO1401 for businesses to be aware of their environmental responsibilities.

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Currently there are citizens concerned about the activities of Golden Lead Company in Gunjur because of the discharge untreated wastewater into the ocean. In Many part of the world because production and manufacturing comes with waste production, there are restrict land regulation about where a factory should be located to reduce pollution such as noise, smell and discharge of effluent materials. Gambia’s coastal landscape and its unique natural beauty is not a suitable location for Golden Lead Factory. I do not know why the environment Agency and Department of Physical are blinded to give planning permission decision to build a factory in our coastal shoreline that should be special area for nature conservation to protect our marine resources. Beyond it about time, the Government comes with some form of regulations and legislative framework about water laws and discharge consent about wastewater into our marine ecosystem for compliance.

For many years, we have not done much work to develop our environmental legislations to cover emissions to air, discharge to water, and release of toxic or hazardous substances, noise, smell and dust, groundwater pollution and other relevant pollution. Gambia need laws beyond Environmental Management Act 1994 for businesses with a license to operate in a way that does not compromise the surrounding social and environmental conditions. Chinese Golden Company and its operation in Gunjur is a marine raw material dependency. Many countries are protecting their finite marine resources and pressure companies in such type of business activities to go into Aquaculture for their source of raw materials.

With current tension in Gunjur, this company cannot be given discharge consent without proper monitoring about the content of the wastewater it discharge into the ocean. For example in Water Resource Management Act 1991, a company has to first apply what is called discharge content permit to environment Agency before releasing wastewater into waterbody. This process requires route scientific procedures, process and conditions. The company should engage with stakeholders to determine important sustainability issues for the business.

With the emerging space of Gambia’s new democratic space, Environmental issues are become a major topical debate in the National Assembly, the media and wider society. Today, there is a growing awareness of issues such as deforestation, desertification, climate change and global warming and its impact of livelihood diversification especially in agrarian economy like our country. On the legislative front, a lot of work was done in the past to develop the country’s environmental legislation such as National Environment Management Act 1994, Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticide Control and Management Act 1994 but not much need to be done since then about Water Resource Management, Water Industry and Abstraction, Ambient Air Quality etc.

In many parts of West Africa, the governments are taking a stronger position on issues such as water pollution, waste disposal, energy and climate change. The term water quality, which is the theme of this article, is generally used to describe water that exists in the natural environment or is used either as industrial process or as a potable supply (Jones, 2000). Water quality can be affected by affluent which the case in Gunjur Golden Lead pollution incident may influence its biological oxygen demand or biochemical oxygen demand. The discharge of untreated wastewater can effect both marine ecosystem and marine species.

Untreated wastewater can contain heavy metals such as lead and marine which bio-accumulators. Accumulation of heavy metals can easily pass into our food chain this is why in many countries discharge of effluent into the marine ecosystem is strictly control and regulated through regulations and laws.
Gambia has not yet put in place a standardised water sample benchmark or regime to determine water pollution incidence. To ascertain water pollution incident requires sampling and through scientific experimentation design and procedures to determine biochemical content of the pollutant is discharge to waste into the water body and the biological oxygen demand level.

Biological oxygen demand is the amount of dissolved oxygen need by aerobic biological organism to break organic material present in a given water sample at certain temperature over specific time period. Effluent quality describes water, which is discharged to the environment following its use in the form of process (Jones, 2000). The properties of effluent therefore can have a considerable impact on water quality affecting surface waters, groundwater and sea.

Access to safe drinking water is a determinant to basic fundamental human rights. Regulation of the water environment and protection of individual rights are both found essential in the common good, and there are best appreciated from historical perspective, because legislation reflects the imperatives of the changing economy and population. Water is vital to human life and, as such, legal measures should be in place to prevent it from anthropogenic pollution. Pollution control is essential and without it, the water which we extract our drinking water, manufacture our food and drink will be unsuitable for usage both for domestic, industrial and agricultural purpose.

Gambia National Environment Agency needs to learn from the Golden Lead Gunjur Pollution incident and put in place a strong and effective legislation to control water pollution offences. For example, in United Kingdom both Water Resource Act 1991 and Environment Act 1995 clearly stated that it is an offence to cause or knowingly permit affluent or other polluting matter to enter into watercourse. Water resources in our country come under the protection and management of National Environment Agency, Department of Fisheries and Department of Water Resources Management. Under the National Environment Management Act 1994, these agencies have enforcement powers when untreated wastewater is discharge into water body without consented permit. In many water resource Management Legislation knowingly and willing effluent into water ecology is a criminal offence. Consented permit order is a kind of Polluter Pay Principle, which many environment agencies put in place.

Water resource management does not only stop at the enactment of legislation but requires sound management principles, public education and change of attitudes for water utilisation. Water plays an important part in the economy this was the reason why United Nation recognised 2005-2015 water for life decades. Water is an asset, which critically need to be safeguarded. In the Gambia since after independence not much is done to improve urban sewerage infrastructure. Untreated urban Sewerage waste discharge in our rivers contributes significantly to water pollution in the country.

Wastewater pumps into rivers in all sewerage treatment sites in Greater Banjul areas biochemical oxygen demand level for discharge into the river. With Water Resource Act, the National Environment Agency will set of standard benchmark and discharge consent order and failure to meet that can lead to fine or prosecution. Sewerage waste is a major contributor to phosphate and nitrogenous waste into our rivers. The effect of these substance on water ecology is concentration of heavy metals which are toxic to invertebrate species, can pass into the food chain and eutrophication. Apart that nitrate in drinking water has linked to condition known as blue baby syndrome in which haemoglobin in the blood, which carries, or transport oxygen around our body cannot perform its function.

With future prospects industrial development, it is likely high that number of water pollution incidents will rise and much needs to be done to enact effective legislation to control water pollution. Pollution of any nature is part of the realities of our civilisation due to consumer culture, leading to unsustainable pattern of consumption and production of resources. As the nation’s economy grows, the impact of pollution and degradation of resources becomes part of the realities.

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