Lamin Samateh, the Programme Officer at the Environmental Legislation Unit of the National Environmental Agency (NEA), has on Thursday alleged that a Chinese factory, Infinity New Energy Enterprise, is operating illegally at Nyambai Forest.
He made this remark during an interview with this paper at the NEA head office in Kanifing.
"We received an application sometime end of 2017 from a proposed Chinese factory that was going to venture into recycling of old tyres to produce fuel. They said they were going to use a technology called Pyrolysis. As part of processing their application, the Chinese proprietors were invited to NEA in 2018 to come and do a presentation on their technology, because that was the first time, we heard such a proposal," he said.
The NEA officer said they did not know much about the technology, adding that they even thought of conducting their independent investigation into the initiative.
He remarked, "During the assessment, Forestry raised concerns that where the forestry is situated is within the forestry buffer."
According to Samateh, NEA was unable to proceed with their environmental assessment of the proposal after concerns were raised by Forestry. He added that the applicants also failed to submit all the documents required of them by the NEA.
"Whatever is happening at that place now is illegal. No environmental approval was granted to the factory. They started a process, and Forestry Department challenged them along the way, and we had to stop them. We also urged the proprietors to work with forestry department to resolve that issue and submit the evidence that their activities would not affect the area so that we can proceed with their application. That was where we stopped with the Chinese," he said.
He said they received complaints some months ago that the said factory is recycling waste oil which was not part of the submission they made to the NEA.
He explained that residents living around the factory have also lodged their complaints to NEA as they are inhaling 'abnormal smell' coming from the said factory. He said as a result of the concerns raised by the people, they dispatched a team to visit the Chinese factory. He added that a report containing recommendations made by investigators after their visit was submitted to the executive director of the National Environment Agency.
"Once the recommendation is approved, we are going to act against the factory. I'm not trying to pre-empt anything, but I want to believe that the recommendation is to have the factory shut down. If you don't have an environmental approval, then your factory is not supposed to operate," he said.
He added that for any factory to operate in The Gambia, it must have approval from the environmental authorities.
He added: "We could even take legal action against them because it is a criminal offence to operate a factory without NEA approval."
He said the factory was not supposed to burn old tires in the area. He concluded by saying that it is illegal for the factory to burn tires in the area.
Attempt was made to get the views of the factory owners, but it was unsuccessful as the reporter could neither have access to the premises nor the proprietors and staff.