Thiès, Senegal – On the second day (6 October) of a historic legal action to shut down a polluting fishmeal factory in the town of Cayar, the High Court of Thiès was shown shocking laboratory evidence of toxic metals in drinking water from the town. The plaintiffs also revealed video documentation of the factory’s truck illegally dumping waste in the lake, which is connected to the same groundwater. The court adjourned until 3 November, when a judgement is expected.
The Taxawu Cayar Collective, which is bringing the case against the factory, described the revelations as “despicable” and as clear evidence that the factory has violated their community’s right to a healthy environment by polluting the town’s air and its drinking water source.
The packed courtroom was told that an independent analysis by the Laboratory of Hydrology and Toxicology at the University of Dakar’s Faculty of Medicine had found levels of chrome and selenium exceeding legal limits in Cayar’s tap water, and that the same toxic metals are found in high levels in the nearby Lake Mbawane, which is connected to the town’s tap water. The sampling was observed by a bailiff.
The court was also shown video footage from August this year when Taxawu Collective members, Greenpeace Africa campaigners and a bailiff witnessed a truck from the factory arriving at the lake, dumping waste effluent and leaving. This footage, combined with the shocking laboratory results, were clear proof of lawbreaking by the factory, said the plaintiffs.
Outside the court, dozens of Cayar residents assembled to show their support for the legal challenge.
Allé Sy, Spokesperson of the Taxawu Cayar Collective, said: “Here is the proof: the factory’s ownership has been breaking the law, polluting our water and callously putting us and our children in danger. And they’re doing it just so they can make a little more profit from the business of ravaging Senegal’s fish stocks. It is despicable. The people of Cayar cannot wait to see them shut down.”
Maitre Bathily, the Collective’s lawyer, said: “The factory has repeatedly broken our country’s environmental law – and here is independent evidence showing the terrible impact that their callous behaviour is having. We can only conclude that the factory has lied to the court, to the media and most shockingly to the people of Cayar and of Senegal.”
Dr Aliou Ba, Greenpeace Africa’s Senior Oceans Campaigner, said: “This is how the global fishmeal and fish oil industry works. They steal our fish, they take away our jobs, they make fish unaffordable here, and they even poison our environment. The cash from this evil enterprise goes to big corporations, and who pays the price? It’s the people of West Africa. But no more. The people of Cayar are fighting back.”
Notes to editors
 The independent laboratory analyses, which followed water sampling verified by a bailiff, revealed:
- High levels of toxic metals in the tap water, including more than thirty times the level of selenium and four times the legal level of chromium, according to Senegal’s legal code NS-05-033, which applies to drinking water.
- High levels of toxic metals in the lake water, including nearly four times the legal level of selenium and nearly three times the legal level of chromium, according to Senegal’s legal code NS-05-061, which applies to bodies of water such as lakes.
- Low oxygen levels in the lake water. The results suggest that Lake Mbawane is polluted with biodegradable organic matter, and that as a consequence, the lake is poorly oxygenated and uninhabitable for fish and other aquatic life. This accords with Greenpeace Africa’s documentation of the factory’s truck dumping fish waste effluent in the lake.
 Available in the Greenpeace Media Library shortly will be:
- Video clips showing a truck from Cayar’s fishmeal factory pouring waste into Cayar’s Lake Mbawane, and video drone footage of the factory.
- Photos of events outside the High Court today. (Please note: stills from previous court hearings are also in the library.)
- Audio interviews in French, Wolof and English with Taxawu members and lawyer Maitre Bathily.
Greenpeace Africa is demanding:
- West African governments phase out any fishmeal and fish oil production using fish fit for human consumption, based on its negative environmental, social and economic impacts,
- West African governments grant women fish processors and artisanal fishermen a legal and formal status, opening access to labour rights and benefits, such as social security and consultation rights in local fisheries management,
- Companies and end markets stop trading fishmeal and fish oil produced using fish fit for human consumption from the West African region,
- All states involved in fisheries in the region establish an effective regional management regime – particularly for the exploitation of shared stocks, such as small pelagic fish – as required under international law, relevant national laws, fisheries policies, and other instruments.
For West African outlets:
Amagor Robert Niang, Communications Officer, Greenpeace Africa, [email protected], +221771834049
For other outlets:
Richard Sayeed, International Communications Coordinator, Greenpeace Africa, [email protected]
Greenpeace Africa press office: [email protected]
Greenpeace International Press Desk: [email protected], +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)