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The circumstances surrounding them are complex with lots of nuances in place. Thorough community engagement across the entire investment process is therefore of the utmost importance.
The community surrounding Sendou had been experiencing several environmental changes, including coastline erosion and decreasing fish stocks and the nearby construction of a toll road. Several years ago, a cement factory was built north of the community which produced air pollution and next to the power plant the Senegalese government decided to build a harbor for the trade and storage of commodities for Western Africa. Due to the coastal erosion the community wanted to relocate to the hinterland but, as was stated in the complaint, the development of the coal power plant would reduce their options for resettlement.
The complainants raised several issues, including economic displacement and lack of compensation for loss of property. Also there hasn’t been sufficient engagement with local communities to allow for their views and interests to be taken into account in decision-making processes.
We acknowledge that during the first stages of project development, increased efforts should have been made to provide additional information to the local communities and take their views into account to a larger extent. We have been aware of the disagreements over land ownership between the Senegalese government and the community surrounding Sendou.
The resettlement was coordinated by the Senegalese government and FMO was encouraging the responsible parties to find a suitable solution for the communities affected by coastal erosion. Based on an external legal opinion of a Senegalese law firm, FMO concluded that the land titles were legally valid. Understandably, insufficient engagement contributed to uncertainty, misunderstandings and resistance to the project.
Community engagement improved after the entry of the new controlling shareholder and was further reinforced when the project company appointed a qualified community development specialist in April 2017 to improve its communications. If the development specialist is still working for CES is unclear at this moment.
We will continue to engage with Senegalese authorities regarding the issues related to the economic displacement impacts on fish-drying women and the compensation to communities regarding disputed land titles, as we have done in the past.