The minister of environment has said the situation of Ebo Town in regard to flooding “is extremely cumbersome to analyse”, stressing that strategic thinking, planning and implementation were required to dig a grave for the area’s perennial flood issues.
Minister Rohey John Manjang on Saturday visited several flood-susceptible areas to gather ground-truths about the flood mitigative works being implemented by the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) and National Roads Authority (NRA).
Accompanied by the executive director of NDMA Mr Sanna Dahaba, interior minister Siaka Sonko, PS at the ministry of environment Ebrima Jawara and NRA boss Ebrima Cham, the environment minister visited flood hotspots in Jabang, Brikama and Ebo Town, where massive flood mitigation interventions were made as seasonal rains set in.
In Jabang, five water holding points have been created while the waterway in the area was dredged to smoothen the flow of water across its natural path.
In Brikama, nearly two kilometres of the gutters in the flood-prone parts of the regional capital were cleaned and dredged while works on Ebo Town gutters, measuring 1,800m were also completed.
NDMA has also mobilised its excavator at the mouth of the Sankung Sillah Canal, which served as a point of convergence for rain water from parts of the Kanifing Municipality. And works on gutters in Bakau were completed.
According to the executive director of NDMA, these works heralded an era of a radical shift from disaster response to mitigation.
“We are making a paradigm shift from response to mitigation,” Dahaba told The Standard.
Meanwhile despite expressing optimism about Gambia’s prospect to end perennial flooding in the Greater Banjul Area in the next five years, the environment minister was dismayed.
“We have been able to see quite a good improvement. Most of the sites have already been dredged but we have a lot to do when it comes to collaborative efforts. The communities have failed themselves to a great extent. You can see most of these gutters are blocked by waste,” she lamented.
According to the environment minister, she was “surprised and disheartened” by what she saw in Ebo Town.
“That one is extremely cumbersome and difficult to analyse. It’s just to say that the people have settled in an area that is inhabitable,” the minister chastised.
She added: “Ebo Town is an area that is inhabitable. The water table is very high and a small rain falls there, it renders the entire place flooded.
It is very sympathetic and unfortunate but the area itself is a waterlogged area. We have to do a detailed study again and a comprehensive analysis of that area. It’s very unfortunate but I don’t think we will be able to do as much as we expected to avert the consequences of the chronic floods that have been happening there for the past years. We will do our best and we will keep monitoring just like what NDMA is doing.”
Still speaking on Ebo Town’s flood woes, the minister pointed out that the area’s “topography is not ideal for human habitation”.
“That one we have to say unless and until it (flood mitigation) has been done by a highly technical study and also advise and implementation for people to settle there but for now, the settlement is not very ideal. We are here to serve the people and the president is also concerned. We discussed it(flooding)at Cabinet and he is concerned that we go and look at these issues,” she explained.
The environment minister did not mince her words as she spoke after discovering that most of the sites she visited on Saturday’s fact-finding mission were littered with waste materials.
“We dredged the gutters but it’s to my dismay that they are blocked by waste. I think the communities have failed themselves to a great extent. And this waste…it’s not the councils or NDMA that put it there. It’s the people, who are living in the vicinity that put it there.
“I understand you have to discharge your waste but you cannot also do it indiscriminately, especially where you think that your drained water is going to go. And if you put the waste there, the water will come after you. So, I think it’s wise for people to also take responsibility to also see how best they dispose of their waste. It (waste disposal) is a must… they have to do it but let them do it wisely,” she added.
GBA’s flood mitigation
According to the environment minister, the current flood mitigation efforts in WCR and KM were short-term but they may be just steps away from the realisation of the bigger goal of flood mitigation.
“With the coming of the Kotu Stream project under the West Africa Coastal Resilience that has just been launched some weeks ago, we hope that in the next five years the entire Brikama belt, the Kombos and GBA flood issues will be mitigated as much as possible,” Madam John Manjang explained.