Mayor Talib Bensouda of KMC
By Landing Ceesay
The Mayor of the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) Talib Ahmed Bensouda has said that being subjected to public scrutiny is part of his responsibilities.
“It is quite a pleasure to be here with you today. And of course, we would like to thank you for attending this very unprecedented program called “Ask the Mayor.’ Definitely, I’m proud to be amongst you today. I think part of my responsibility, as a public official, is to be subjected to public scrutiny. So it is definitely important for me to have an interface with people in my constituency, which is the Kanifing Municipality (KM).
“We just met 19 wards and 19 communities. So I thought it prudent, why don’t we also meet one of our most important constituents, which is the best and the brightest, the students of the Kanifing Municipality? So I am here to answer every and any question you may have with some limitations. But I am today at your service,” Mayor Bensouda said.
The Lord Mayor of KMC on Friday night held the first edition of the “Ask Your Mayor” forum with the students of the Kanifing Municipality (KM) to allow them to ask any questions they may have for the mayor.
Mayor Bensouda took numerous questions from the students of the University of the Gambia (UTG), the Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJaC), the Gambia College, the Management Development Institute (MDI) etc. in an event that lasted for over two hours and was highly interactive between the students and the Mayor.
During the question and answer session, Mayor Bensouda was asked to inform the audience about his council’s plans and efforts to relocate the Bakoteh dump site.
In response, Mayor Bensouda highlighted a number of developments his Council has put in place at the dump site, including the fencing and construction of concrete roads at the site. He acknowledged that the Bakoteh dump site is by far the biggest health crisis in the Gambia, as it is closed to schools, surrounded by communities, surrounded by SOS, which is a children’s orphanage.
However, Mayor Bensouda told the gathering that the Bakoteh dumpsite problem, “unfortunately,” cannot be solved completely by his council (Kanifing Municipal Council).
“The reason being, local councils cannot allocate land. We are not responsible for land management. That mandate, that right and that legality is under the Ministry of Lands and Local Government. So since we came into office, I think what you really want to know is what strides and what steps have been taken to try to relocate the dump site. We just don’t want to relocate it.
“We want it to be in a place where it is remote one, two, it is not just a dump site, but an engineered landfill. So the Bakoteh dump site faces what in the Western world they call the NIMBY problem, not in my backyard. Today, if we take the dump site away from KMC, who would like the Bakoteh dump site in their neighborhood? Would you like it in the West Coast Region in Jabang, in Brikama? Nobody wants it,” Mayor Bensouda said.
The KMC Mayor further told the students that the right thing for the government to do is to come up with a strategy to ensure that when the Bakoteh dump site is closed, they come up with an engineered landfill.
Mayor Bensouda said if the dump site is to be maintained or remain, it should be changed from a dump site to what they call a “transfer station”, which are locations where waste is taken to, sorted, and recycled and what cannot be reused is transferred to an engineered landfill, where it is buried correctly.
“Buried correctly in the sense when they dig a hole, they create a membrane, the membrane in some countries they created with clay. The reason being, over time, as that waste decomposes, the leachate doesn’t go down and poison the water table. So with the Bakoteh dump site, what we are facing is a risk of the water table for up to five kilometers radii being poisoned.
“This is water you are drinking from your wells. This is the water you’re showering with. And who knows, many deaths are happening in the Gambia and the autopsy report is not concluded or conclusive. It may be a result of chemicals being thrown into the water table by the Bakoteh dump site. So we have engaged the government, we have engaged the West Coast Region, and we created a task force,” the KMC Mayor said.
The Mayor said Banjul City Council (BCC), Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC), Brikama Area Council (BAC) and the Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of lands and local government were part of a task force in 2019 that identified three sites and the site they eventually chose as the appropriate site to transfer the Bakoteh dump site to or to create an engineered landfill was Faraba Village.
Mayor Bensouda told the students that due to the relationship between the Gambia government and Faraba Village when they were engaged, the Faraba people rejected it.
Mayor Bensouda said, for that reason, the local councils do not have the power to transfer the Bakoteh dump site.
The Mayor said as KMC is the most urbanized municipality and the most built Municipality and that there is no remote land to move the Bakoteh dump site.
“So this is solely the responsibility of the Ministry of lands and local government. But for the past five years, we have been advocating that they must take this step. Because the Bakoteh dump site, as we speak, is having a lot of flooding problems now during the rainy season, because it is full to capacity. In the dry season, It is burning. It is disturbing the health of the entire communities of Bakoteh, Manjai and Dippa Kunda. So we need it moved, It is long overdue.
“But this is now at the table of the Ministry of lands and local government. What we can do as a Council is to mitigate the risk. So, as you have seen, in the past five years, we have used taxpayers’ funds and created a 1.8 kilometer fence to keep the hazards within. We have also with the German government, and the SOS secured a grant of up to 42 million dalasis to build infrastructure there. If you go there today, you will see that we have built concrete roads. We are building a recycling hangar. We are bringing a shredding machine. We are building a water filtration system to keep pyres off. So we are doing as much as we can as a council, but it’s time for the government to step in,” Mayor Bensouda told the students.