From 1972 onward, several phosphate fertilizer plants have been built in the industrial complex of Gabès, exploiting the resources of the Gafsa mines. This complex offers many jobs for this region, which suffers from a high unemployment rate . Nevertheless, in 2013, after the death of two children from diseases caused by radiation, protests began in order to demand the reduction of phosphate pollution in the Gabès District . Civil protesters also organized Internet campaigns on Twitter and Facebook in order to inform the population and try to negotiate with the government .
The phosphate fertilizer plants in Gabès have deeply impacted the environment of the region. First of all, the 12,000 tons of phosphogypsum drained into the gulf everyday cause damage to the marine fish biodiversity and the interdiction of bathing, because radiation levels are too high . Moreover, soil and air pollution impacts human health . Even if no study has precisely estimated the health consequences, local protesters denounce the rising infertility, the increasingly common miscarriages , and the appearance of several diseases such as asthma, cancer, and hepatitis .
While Gabès gulf is in the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list , pollution has degraded the landscape too. The sea color is brown. The air does not smell good because of acid smoke. Palm trees of the oasis are dying because of water pollution and shortages due to the overconsumption of the fertilizer plants .
These risks have been well known from the beginning of the project . Nevertheless, because of the social and economic importance of the complex, the political will to end the pollution seems very limited.