Wednesday, February 1

End-of-Year Recap on Environmental issues

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By Nyima Sillah 

On Monday 13th June 2022 Stakeholders, comprising Gambia Petroleum (GP), National Environmental Agency (NEA), National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), Gambia Maritime Administration (GMA), and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) budgeted one million and seven hundred thousand dalasi (D1.7 million) for the removal of spill oil on River Gambia.

Oil Spillage in Mandinari

It could be recalled that on 28th May 2022, between the hours 02:30 to 03:30 am MT FT STURLA vessel that was discharging Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) at the Mandinari Depot discharged more than seventy thousand (70, 000) liters of HFO through a ruptured pipe that leaked into the River Gambia which the crew members of the vessel and Gambia Petroleum (GP) Company were late to notice.

Climate Change, 2022 rainy season in the Gambia

Backstory: Following this year’s unusually heavy rains recorded in the Gambia, over 47,104 flood victims were recorded in the tiny West African nation of The Gambia, depicting the dangerous consequences of climate change.

The flash floods that hit the country were said to be amongst the worst in nearly half a century. The torrential rains and attendant thunderstorms caused flooding and widespread damage to lives and property in many parts of the country especially the densely populated capital city of Banjul.

According to Gambia’s National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) 11 people died, some 9,965 children below the age of five and 3,088 pregnant and breastfeeding women, were among those severely affected.

Meanwhile, over 7,000 households were hit hard in a country that has a population of fewer than three million inhabitants.

Mr. SannaDahaba, the Executive Director of Gambia’s National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), spoke of climate change as something real its effects were being felt every day.

“In the Gambia, there is a need for a change of attitude. People must stop settling on waterways. Also, there is an unregulated settlement coupled with poor planning and the kind of drainage system we have here,” he said.

Activist’s Demands

DrMalanding Jaiteh is a climate activist and head of the Gambia Adaptation Project who sees climate change as a global issue that has negative impacts on small countries like the Gambia. According to him, the tiny West African nation has low and flat land across the country and therefore any rise in sea level affects the entire nation.

The Gambia Government issued an urgent press release on humanitarian assistance to flood victims countrywide

In a statement “The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) has conducted a rapid assessment of the affected communities, which reveals over eight thousand people affected, including five deaths, massive internal displacement of several communities, damaged public and private properties, including a bridge, as well as submerged farmlands. It has also identified the need for urgent humanitarian support, including food and non-food items and possibly preventive medical supplies for a possible outbreak of post-flood diseases.”

The statement did say that the “Government has since mobilized some support” though it did not say what support and from where. It has however promised to “continue to explore increased support from local partners to adequately respond to the plight of the affected communities.”

Allocation of WALIC/Bijilo

On 28th October 2022, the Gambian government through the Ministry of Justice released a press statement on its approval of the portion of the land at the Bijilo Forest Park and WALIC to the Government of the United States of America (USA) to build a new state-of-the-art Embassy Complex.

Over this, the West Africa Livestock Innovation Center (WALIC) and part of the Bijilo Forest Park by the Government of The Gambia to the US Government for purpose of building a new state-of-the-art US Embassy, members of the Gambia Environmental Alliance (GEA) and US Embassy Due Diligence Team held a two days dialogue without any concession over the matter.

Muhammed Hydara, the Chairman of the Gambia Environmental Alliance (GEA) confirmed to The Voice Newspaper that members of GEA and the US Embassy Due Diligence Team had a two days dialogue over the illegal allocation of the 10 hectares of land to the US Government.

According to him, the two days dialogue accords frank discussions over the matter but nothing has been finalised on whether US Government will proceed to build its new Embassy on the disapproval of Environmentalists, conservationists, and wildlife advocates. He made it clear that the position of the GEA remains the same even after the engagement with the US Embassy Due Diligence Team that no portion of the Bijilo Forest Park should be used for any other purpose than serving the wildlife.

American Embassy Speaks On Acquisition of WALIC/Bijilo Park Property

On the 14th November 2022, Fatoumata Ceesay, Strategic Content, Press and Media Coordinator US Embassy in Banjul spoke for the first time on the controversy surrounding the acquisition of a 10acres of land allocated to the US Government to build a new state-of-the-art US Embassy complex. She said the Embassy is currently following the due diligence procedures and will timely inform the public on how much US Government has paid for the land.

The Voice Newspaper contacted the American Embassy through its communication officer Fatoumata Ceesay who disclosed that the United States and the Government of The Gambia signed an Agreement on October 6, 2022, as the first step toward the acquisition of property for a new U.S. Embassy.

In an interview through questions send to her, she noted that this Agreement allows the United States to conduct “due diligence” on the site, ensuring it meets all physical, legal, political, administrative, environmental, and technical requirements for the new embassy project.

“With the Agreement now signed, the detailed technical assessment work can begin to determine whether the site is suitable to meet our goal. Over the next 16 months, experts from The Gambia and the United States will thoroughly investigate and assess many factors, including the environmental impact. Many Gambian and American experts from numerous technical fields will be involved in the 16-month due diligence assessment phase,” FatoumataCisay disclosed.

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