By: Nyima Sillah
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has urged the National Environmental Agency (NEA) to improve urban planning and drainages system to reduce waterlogging and sanitation.
Highlighting this issue in its 2022 activity report, NHRC noted that the effects of climate change continue to adversely affect The Gambia as the summer of 2022 saw heavy rains in the country and 2022 State of Human Rights Report 63 Severe floods left many communities devastated as dwellings were destroyed by flash floods.
“There were reports that at least 11 people lost their lives, 5000 people were internally displaced and over 40,000 people were severely affected by the floods. The National Disaster Management Agency indicated that the July 2022 flash floods were the worst to hit The Gambia in nearly half a century.
“The consequence was that the environment was severely affected as poor drainage, sanitation, and urban planning caused waterlog. Mining activities around the coastal areas and some towns in rural Gambia have also caused serious damage to the environment,” the report indicated
According to the report, In August 2022, the Minister of Energy and Petroleum expressed shock over damages caused by mining companies without regard to environmental standards, noting this followed the Minister’s tour of Tujereng, Brufut, Sanyang, and Kartong.
The NHRC report also stated that the adverse effects of sand mining have been great in the mining communities and there have been calls for stiff regulation as communities and the environment continue to be affected.
“Fish meal factories continue to operate in Kartong, Gunjur, and Sanyang along the Atlantic Coast of The Gambia. The odour and toxic waste products from these factories continue to emit a foul scent into the environments they operate in. The boilers from the fishmeal factories are sources of carbon emission into the atmosphere which contributes to air pollution. These waste products are constant hazards to human health, aqua life, and bio habitats.
The report continues: “The activities of the fishmeal factories should be regulated and measures against pollution adopted. The NHRC reiterates the need for the adoption of a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights to provide a blueprint for action.
“The National Environment Agency (NEA) should be empowered to adequately capture and analyses environmental issues in their Annual State of the Environment Report.”
Meanwhile, the report added the Government should also provide and implement long-term disaster risk reduction planning and strategies to address the menace of annual flooding to protect fundamental human rights.
Among other key recommendations is for the NEA to Develop early warning systems through the Department of Geology to enable the State to respond to looming floods in disaster-risk areas. Conduct a baseline assessment survey to gauge the effects of sand mining and fishmeal factories on the environment. Take measures for the enactment of legislation to regulate the operation of fishmeal factories in coastal towns.
“Implement the recommendations in the NHRC 2022 State of Human Rights Report relevant to the promotion and protection of environmental rights. Expedite the enactment of the National Environment Management Bill 2022 and the Waste Bill 2022. Support the development and implementation of a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.
Take measures to ensure communities benefit from the proceeds of mining and fish mealing activities, and continue to take measures for the effective implementation of the Faraba-bantang Commission recommendations.”