Since the revolution of January 2011, Tunisia has seen the emergence of voluntary organisations and an influential civil society concerned with protecting the environment. Previously a politically taboo subject, industrial pollution caused by public companies has become a major concern for citizens. This is especially the case in areas where phosphate production plants are located. This key economic sector, in which Tunisia is one of the world's main producers, has become a real social and environmental issue. These are legitimate concerns which are obliging the actors in the sector to take these previously neglected ecological issues into account. The Tunisian Chemical Group (GCT), a specialist in enriching and processing phosphate, is thus under pressure from the country's civil society.
The group's activity, spread across three industrial sites (Gabès, Skhira and Mdilla) originally known for their biodiversity, is extremely polluting and presents significant health risks for local populations.
The plants located at these sites have had a lasting impact in terms of air pollution and the discharge of environmentally harmful sludge into the sea, which has contributed to the disappearance of several species of fish. Demonstrations and local campaigns have blamed the polluting waste resulting from the group's industrial production.
This rallying caught the attention of the CEO of the GCT, Romdhame Sioud, who intends to make his Group's activity more eco-friendly so as to meet the expectations that have been strongly expressed by local populations, even if there is still a long way to go.
Protecting citizens from polluting emissions
AFD has encouraged the GCT to adhere to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as part of a global, long-term approach. A €300,000 grant was thus granted to the Group, on April 25th this year. "This financial support aims to contribute to the company's long-term development within a responsible society which protects its citizens from polluting emissions" explains Gilles Chausse, director of AFD in Tunisia.
A €45m loan agreement to fund the Group's environmental upgrading program for its plants, in order to reduce pollution caused by the three phosphate production sites, was signed in November 2016.
Phosphate, which is at the center of various economic, social and political issues, is a precious commodity whose exploitation needs to be rethought in both environmental and social terms in order to meet the requirements of sustainable development. In Tunisia, AFD has made promoting sustainable development and fighting inequality a key focus in order to support the country in its ecological and social transition.