By Kebba Ansu Manneh
Officials of Gambia Environmental Alliance and partners yesterday held a closed-door meeting with the Ambassador of the United States of America in Gambia, Her Excellency Sharon Cromer together with the Deputy Chief of Mission Eric R. Mehler and other embassy officials on the embattled Bijilo Forest Park and West Africa Livestock Innovation Center that was sold to the US Government recently for the construction of a new Embassy complex.
The meeting follows the announcement by the Ministry of Justice on 28th October 2022, that The Gambia and US governments have entered into an agreement to allocate part of Bijilo Forest Park to be used for the construction of a new US embassy complex
The allocated land, according to the Ministry of Justice is currently occupied by the West Africa Livestock Innovation Centre (WALIC) which originally used to be ITC
. In all, the Government will allocate 25 acres from within WALIC while WALIC itself and the visitors’ centre will be relocated. “As environmentalists, we join the public to express our disapproval of this agreement. It is in response to this development that we sought an audience with the Ambassador to share our concern with her and demand that they find a more suitable alternative site,” GEA disclosed in its 1st November 2022, Press release.
It added: “In the meeting, GEA stated in no uncertain terms that we are committed to the protection and preservation of the entire Bijilo Forest Park which contains both the Monkey Park and WALIC as well as the visitors’ centre. We welcome the Ambassador and her team’s assurance and commitment to transparency and engagement on this issue in the interest of the environment.”
Gambia Environmental Alliance (GEA) expressed its concern over the increasing threats to the Gambia’s environment largely because of the Government’s failure to protect and preserve the environment by effectively monitoring and enforcing the environmental laws and better care for our flora and fauna,
“We reminded the US Ambassador of the domestic and international legal obligations of both governments to protect and preserve the environment,” GEA reported. The release further disclosed that GEA members took their time to highlight the impact of acquiring part of the Bijilo forest Park on not only the animals and the ecosystem but also on the population of surrounding communities and the Gambia as a whole, recalling that Bijilo Forest Park was gazetted in 1951 as a cherished heritage of the Gambia which also stands as a testament to the memory and great effort of former President Jawara who was a champion environmentalist. “GEA will continue to engage all other stakeholders as well as mobilize CSOs, communities, and partners to ensure that Monkey Park is not subjected to any further encroachment.”