Thursday, August 20, 2015

Threats to Senegal's southern mangroves:

Submitted by
Ibrahima Thiam

Natural Casamance is a separate region of southern Senegal separated from the rest of the country by Gambia. It is a region barely left standing after years of violence around the separatist rebels of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC).

The region has the same name as its main river land that opens multiple characteristics: fertile soils, farming and fishing as well as tourism that develops around the coast. This coastline is in fact a huge delta. North of the delta, a wide dune strip protects the hinterland, villages, mangroves and rice fields. 

This is the dune belt that two companies covet ( the Australian and Chinese Astron Carnegie, one of the largest zircon buyers in the world) to extract zirconium mineral massively for worldwide consumption, the nuclear industry and paints and abrasive papers.

An exploration permit has been issued by the Government of Senegal in 2004 setting in motion a classic theme "employment against environment". And since 2007, hundreds of small exploratory drilling took place in "Dune". On 1 August 2014, the State of Senegal issued a decree allowing Carnegie/Astron to move into the exploitation phase. 

Locals in the area are concerned by this operation between Niafarang, Diouloulou, Kabadio and Abéné opposes this devastating mining project against their precious ecosystem. Here are their arguments 
  • The mining permit issued by the State of Senegal lies partly in a "marine protected area" decreed by the Senegalese government in 2004. There are number crocodiles, monitor lizards, monkeys and birds.
  • The zircon mining techniques are a real massacre of the dune; little will remain because the mineral is trapped in the sand.
  • The dredging method requires the installation of basins and works by suction and shoveling. We know what we must think of reclamation promises after five years of operation.
  • The dune is a natural protection for the back country that struggles against rising sea levels. The coastline recedes by serious pace for several years. The hinterland consists of saltwater mangroves, but also orchards and rice fields. So we can not imagine a weakening of this natural defense against the forces of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The groundwater inland risks infiltration of salt water.
  • The population livelihoods currently include vegetable crops, fishing, oyster farming and tourism, and all these activities will be heavily impacted by the mining. 

The "Environmental and Social Impact Study" published in 2010 minimizes the degree of opposition from the local population and concludes with a long list of "mitigation measures".  Even the decree of the State of August 1, 2014 on the farm speaks of "huge difficulties linked to low social acceptance of the project in the middle of implementation." 

Public meetings against the project, petitions for village chiefs, releases of refusal of MDFC, musicians concerts are just a few of many activities carried out against the project. In the region, the conflict between the two interests is severe enough that the army has begun to increase its patrols on site. Intimidation and corruption have also appeared in this issue  clashes between "pro - and anti - zircon" seem inevitable if Carnegie continues its exploitation of the Niafarang dunes.

Ibrahima Thiam
Regional Director
Wetlands International Africa
Rue 111 No 39 B Zone B
BP 25581 Dakar - Fann, SENEGAL
Tel: +221 33 869 1681


"We safeguard and restore wetlands for people and nature"

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