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Gabès Phosphate Fertilizers Plants of the Tunisian Chemical Group, Tunisia


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 [1]. 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 [2]. Civil protesters also organized Internet campaigns on Twitter and Facebook in order to inform the population and try to negotiate with the government [3].

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 [4]. Moreover, soil and air pollution impacts human health [5]. Even if no study has precisely estimated the health consequences, local protesters denounce the rising infertility, the increasingly common miscarriages [2], and the appearance of several diseases such as asthma, cancer, and hepatitis [5].

While Gabès gulf is in the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list [6], 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 [7].

These risks have been well known from the beginning of the project [8]. Nevertheless, because of the social and economic importance of the complex, the political will to end the pollution seems very limited. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Gabès Phosphate Fertilizers Plants of the Tunisian Chemical Group, Tunisia
State or province:Gabès
Location of conflict:Ghannouch
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Chemical industries
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific commodities:Chemical products
Industrial waste
Phosphate fertilizer; Phosphate

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The industrial complex of Gabès has produced the following phosphate fertilizers from 1972 onward:

1) Diammonium phosphate (production of 1.3 million tons/year)

2) Phosphoric acid (875,000 tons/year)

3) Calcium phosphate (90,000tons/year)

4) Ammonium nitrate (capacity of 330,000 tons/year)

Phosphate is the main mining product of the country; its exploitation, by the public sector, represents 3% of the GPD and 10% of exports

Project area:600
Level of Investment:no data
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:375,000 (Gabès governorate)
Start of the conflict:14/06/2013
Company names or state enterprises: Groupe Chimique Tunisien (GTC) from Tunisia
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mines
Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development
Ministry of Health
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Union Régionale de l’Agriculture et de la Pêche de Gabès
Association de Sauvegarde de l’Oasis de Chenini Gabes (
Association Régionale de la Sauvegarde de la Nature et de l’Environnement de Gabès
SOS Environnement Gabès (
Al-Mustaqbal Al-Akhdar (Green Future)(

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusIn operation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and the Tunisian Chemical Group have planned the building of a landfill site (far away from Ghannouch, around 20 to 40 km away) for the phosphogypsum which is currently drained away into the gulf. Nevertheless, inhabitants of this site have declared their disagreement with this plan. Moreover, because of economic reasons, the closing of the industrial complex is not planned, nor has any solution for limiting human health impacts and the degradation of the landscape been proposed.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Darmoul B., Hadj Ali Salem M., Vitello P., 1980, “Effets des rejets industriels de la région de Gabès (Tunisie) sur le milieu marin récepteur”, Bulletin de l’Insitut National Scientifique et technique Océanographique, n° 7, pp. 5-61

AYEB H., 2014, Gabès Labess (All is well in Gabès)

Barraud C., 2015, “En Tunisie, le phosphate a saccagé la nature du Golfe de Gabès », Reporterre

2014, “Tunisie : Colère et tension chez les marins-pêcheurs de Gabès”, DirectInfo

Elaiba I., 2013, “Tunisie : Etat des lieux de la pollution causée par le groupe chimiuqe tunisien à Gabès”, HufPost Maghreb

Al-Jazeera, 2013, “Pollution in Gabes, Tunisia's shore of death”, Al-Jazeera

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Youtube page of the Association SOS Envoironnement Gabès

Facebook page of the ASOC

Facebook page of Al-Mustaqbal Al-Akhdar Association

Meta information

Contributor:EJAtlas team
Last update18/08/2019



The Chott Esselam beach in Gabes, situated next to the phosphate plant, is sometimes called the 'shore of death' by environmental activists [Thessa Lageman/Al Jazeera]