The environmental catastrophe that took place in Moulouya reveals once more the critical importance of corporate social responsibility. The video below highlights the tragic situation in Moulouya with tons of dead fish laying across kilometers on the Moulouya banks. Why did this happen? How did it happen? Who is responsible? Too many questions, very little answers. Thanks to Facebook and Youtube, news of this environmental crime quickly spread to the world. As for Morocco’s official news site, it is awkwardly silent on the disaster. Ironically, the “environment” is still not listed as a News category on the MAP site.
Many suspect SUCAFOR, a sugar refinery, as the company that is behind the disaster. This is not the first time that SUCAFOR is accused of polluting the Moulouya. However, the Company’s Director rejected the accusations pointing fingers elsewhere.
Sampling and chemical testing of water are supposedly taking place, but while local community members are eager to learn the truth, emergency steps have yet to be adopted: In addition to the tragic impact on the environment, the extent of the catastrophe’s impact on the people and communities living off the river and dependent on its water is worrisome. There were reports of livestock dying from exposure to the water and grass destroyed by high level of acidity. The impoverished communities living around Moulouya are now forced to buy water. Sadly, these social and economic consequences will have long term disastrous impacts on farming, raising livestock, drinking water, health, fishing etc…).
It is important to await the lab results before pointing fingers here and there, and environmental groups must collect water samples to ensure independent testing. However, the local communities affected by the catastrophe cannot wait and are in need of an emergency plan. A clean up program must instantly be established. Immediate steps to avoid potential health risks must be undertaken. Communities must be provided with safe drinking water and offered a compensation package to cover for the economic losses caused by the disaster.
As for SUFACOR, it may be true that they have no role in this disaster. Either way, it doesn’t make them less of a stakeholder. After all, the company operates by the Moulouya. If as their website claims, they are indeed a socially responsible company, they must:
- Disclose all information about their waste management strategies and make such information readily accessible online. The Moulouya communities and environmental NGOs in the area have the right to such information.
- Being socially responsible is more than making the pledge through a two paragraph long statement. It means providing critical details about the environmental impacts of the factory’s operation.
- In addition, social responsibility requires continuous display of accountability, a commitment to transparency, and sustaining community engagement, most critically during times of ecological crises.
- As for the ultimate social responsibility, it belongs with the government. The latter must take immediate action and make sure that the Moulouya communities are “guaranteed the conditions for a safe access to water and a clean environment” as provided by article 35 of the 2011 Constitution. Get on it!