Gabon accuses France's Veolia of pollution

Libreville - Gabon on Tuesday accused Veolia of polluting in the country as the government and the French company wage an increasingly bitter dispute in public over the cancellation of a contract for water and electricity distribution.

"There is considerable environmental damage at almost all of the sites exploited by SEEG," Communication Minister Alain-Claude Bilie By Nze told journalists, referring to the Gabonese firm which is 51% owned by Veolia.

"Oils and fuel have been spilled on the ground, without any protection or precautions, in flagrant violation of environmental regulations," he said during a news conference, adding that "investigations will be carried out".

The government cancelled Veolia's concession in Gabon on February 16 and took control of SEEG facilities. Veolia has denounced the move as a "brutal expropriation".

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Since then the government and firm have engaged in a communications battle via the media.

"Is it possible in France that Veolia dumps fuels and used oils in the rivers?" asked the minister.

The firm and government have disputed whether Gabon met its commitment to invest the equivalent of $1.8bn into SEEG, as well as responsibility for power cuts and the calculation of electricity fees for the government.

Veolia provides water, waste and energy management services in numerous countries, employing more than 163 000 people worldwide.