Oil firm on trial

Wednesday 15 December 2004

Mauritius-based Galana Petroleum company has been put to trial in Madagascar for causing pollution. The trial began on November 16, 2004. Galana's oil refinery is charged with contaminating water sources and air in Toamasina, the island's second-largest city housing about 200,000 people. The Madagascar government is demanding damages but the amount has not been made public.

"For two years the government has written to Galana to tell them they are polluting the air and the canals. They had a contract with us (forbidding pollution), and they are not honoring it," Madagascar's environment minister Charles Sylvain Rabotoarison is reported to have said. "Fish in the canals near the refinery are dying and people living within its 30 km radius are getting sick," he added. Though there was no statement from the company after the trial began, Galana's officials have denied these allegations in the past. Galana is an independent oil company.

In July 2004, authorities had halted a shipment of Galana's fuel oil to Mauritius, alleging irregularities in export procedure. A month later, they said they were investigating pollution caused by the company and other irregularities like non-compliance with stocking rules and false declarations about the origins of its products.

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