A thousand people gathered in the city of Gabes (southeast) to protest against environmental pollution caused by Group Chimique Tunisien (GCT) phosphate processing plants. The campaign "Stop Pollution," organized by civil society and political parties, called for the rally in front of GCT production units in the city to demand an immediate cessation of phosphogypsum dumping in the sea. Further protests may occur.
Phosphate mining and processing activities represent a crucial industry in Tunisia. GCT, in operation since the 1970s in Gabes, specializes in processing phosphate - a natural resource used in fertilizer manufacturing. However, this process creates large amounts of phosphogyse, a mud harmful to the environment, that is released into the sea. The Gulf of Gabes is consequently heavily polluted and the poor air and water quality is putting locals at risk for health problems. According to experts, pollution in Gabes (population 150,000) has resulted in cases of chronic diseases such as cancer and asthma.
On Friday, June 30, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed signed on to a EUR 1.1 billion project that will gradually dismantle and replace the six existing production units.
Generally speaking, individuals in Tunisia are advised to avoid all protests as a precaution due to the risk of violence.