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|T O P I C R E V I E W
||Posted - 20 Aug 2019 : 13:33:42
Open Letter to President Barrow
Below is an Open Letter to President Adama Barrow from Gambian Forestry experts and professionals who have spent their entire lives in protecting, developing and maintaining the flora and fauna that has come under new and constant assault from a government that professes to be environment-friendly.
Please read this Open Letter, in addition to the protestations coming from the immediate communities affected by this callous attempt to enact a de-classification request that will devastate, not only the environment but a way of life on entire communities.
An Open Letter to President Barrow
Banjul, The Gambia
19 August 2019
H.E. Adama Barrow
President of the Republic of The Gambia
State House, Banjul
19th August, 2019
The decision to de-reserve a portion of Salagi Forest along Sukuta-Jambanjelly Highway should not be allowed to stand
We the undersign write to appeal for your personal intervention to reverse the decision to de-reserve a portion of Salagi Forest Park. We come to you as retired civil servants, former cabinet Ministers, directors and officers at the Ministry and Department of Forestry. All of us have spent a good part of our professional carriers in the department of forestry and some of us went to serve as director of the Department of Forestry and a few of us serve as Ministers of Environment and Natural Resources.
It is for the above reasons that we find it necessary and urgent to bring to your attention our concerns about the de-reservation of a portion of Salagi Forest Park along the Sukuta-Jambanjelly Highway. It has come to us as great discomfort and surprise that a letter signed by the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources (MECCNAR) (leaked to the social media) was sent to the Attorney General’s Chambers, Ministry of Justice, approving the request for the de-reservation of a portion of Salagi Forest along Sukuta-Jambanjelly Highway. The letter went on to state that approval is granted “to de-reserve a depth of 80 meter wide and 1000 meters or one (1) kilometre long excluding the 30 meter wide along the highway road reserve metre as per sketch attached. This will avail MoLRG&RA the allocation of a strip land for institutional purposes which will impact positively on the economy of the country.”
The area in question is part of the natural forest (commonly referred to as amenity belt), that was deliberately left untouched when the rest of the park was converted to fast-growing Gmelina plantation. The idea at the time was to allow some portions of the forest park to remain under natural vegetation in order to continue to provide ecosystem goods and services for the benefit of neighboring populations and wildlife species that depend on the park. Although degraded as a result of increased population pressures, this area continues to provide numerous critical ecosystem goods and services including the maintenance of the underground waters in the aquifers including that of NAWEC water boreholes (being one of the major source of our water supply); grazing for thousands of livestock from neighboring settlements; firewood and fruits for thousands of poor families within the vicinity of the park; bird watchers; Eco-tourists and nature lovers in an increasingly affluent neighborhood.
To put things in perspective a little over 150,000 people live within 2.5 kilometers from Salagi Forest Park. With the current population trajectory, this will reach 200,000 by the next census in 2023 thus the need for the maintaining the ecological integrity of the park.
This de-reservation request followed another one just few years ago, that allowed NAWEC to expand it’s Water Facility at Sukuta. Re-allocating 8 ha of a 100 ha natural forest area, in our view will significantly undermine on the ecological integrity of the park, particularly on it’s ability to sustain the biological diversity and water production functions. In addition, allocating this land for unspecified “institutional purposes” including a heavy equipment depot and a petrol station presents serious threats to the boreholes and our domestic water resources in the event of an industrial accident and likelihood of fuel seepage into the underground water table. Goes counter to the NDP goal to ensure our environment is sustainably managed and conserved.
It must be recalled that one of the critical enabling goals of the National Development Plan is to ensure that Gambia’s environment and natural resources are sustainably managed and conserved to increase resilience for the benefit of all. This decision to convert 10 percent of the last remaining natural forest in a gazetted park to industrial land use, no matter the economic promise in our view goes counter to the above stated goal and will no doubt send the wrong message to our development partners.
It is a significant set back in meeting our commitments to Multilateral Environmental Agreements and National Policies
The Gambia is signatory to a number of international environmental treaties, conventions, protocols, agreements and programmes including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN Reductions in Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), the National Adaptation Programme of Actions (NAPA) and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) and Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), all of which require commitments to protecting natural ecosystems and the sustainable utilization of the associated ecosystem goods and services they provide.
De-reserving a portion of this park will present a significant setback to achieving these long-term conservation commitments, national or international and will represent serious disregard for all the effort and money spent by the Gambian people during the 67 years of protection and management.
Our national Forest Policy advocates for sustainable management of our remaining forest through state, community and private participation. It categorically indicates the need to maintain 200, 000 hectare under community forest managed by communities themselves. This has led to the creation of the Gambia Forest Management Concept (GFMC) in which the forest parks will serve as the nucleus in the teaching and promotion of best management practices to surrounding communities. Therefore this action does not reflect what government advocates for and is sending the very wrong signals to communities we encouraging to complement government’s efforts in the drive for sustainable forest resource management.
It can not be the economy vs the environment
While we recognize your government’s commitment to improving and expanding the Gambia’s economy, such development cannot be sustainable without the protection of our natural ecosystems. Sustainable development as defined in the Brundtland Report is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations”. De-reserving a portion of a national forest park for the soul purpose of converting it into land use other than its natural vegetation, is not in our view sustainable development. If history is to teach us anything, Bijilo Forest Park is one to point to. In 1982 when Bijilo Forest Park was to be de-reserved and allocated for hotel construction, some of us and colleagues at the Gambia-German Forestry Project helped reverse that decision. Within a few short years the park was transformed into the eco-tourism Mecca of the Gambia, attracting thousands of birdwatchers, employing thousands of youth and paying millions of Dalasis into the government’s Consolidated Revenue fund each year.
Based on the above mentioned reasons, we implore your personal intervention to reverse this decision to de-reserve any portion of Salagi and in the future commit your government not to de-reserve any other gazetted Forest Park for any use other than Environmental. We are in no doubt that the Ministry of Lands can find 8 hectares in some other part of the country that can be used for “institutional purposes” without impinging on our ability to meet our national and international environmental obligations. We believe that is what’s best for the Gambian people, environment and it is good for the economy and good for your legacy.
Let us conclude with a quote from the Banjul Declaration of 1977. “It would be tragic if this priceless natural heritage, the product of millions of years of evolution, should be further endangered or lost for want of proper concern”.
We thank you for your time and kind consideration.
Mr. Bai Mass Taal - former Minister of Environment
and former Director of Forestry
Mr. Foday Bojang - former Director of Forestry
Mr. Abdoulie Danso - former Director of Forestry
Mr. Jato Sillah - former Minister of Forestry and former Director of Forestry
Almami Dampha - former Senior Forestry Officer now Sr Policy Officer for Forestry and Sustainable Land Management, African Union Commission
|4 L A T E S T R E P L I E S (Newest First)
||Posted - 10 Oct 2019 : 10:45:15
"Attempts to reach the Ministry of the Environment, was unsuccessful but a further attempt will be made."
Should be interesting a "Clarrification" from The Ministry when it comes,after much research and thought of course.
By Madiba Singhateh October 8, 2019
Iformation reaching Foroyaa indicate that the West Coast Regional Forestry Officer Ousainou Cham, has been redeployed to the North Bank Region.
The redeployment or immediate transfer of Mr. Cham has raised eyebrows among Forestry officials and environmentalists who say that the experienced Forest Officer, while occupying that position made revelations regarding attempts to de-reserve a strip of the Salagi Forest Reserve and exportation of 40 containers of Rosewood timber, an endangered species which the government had banned from exportation.
Mr. Cham who has served as Regional Forestry Officer for the West Coast Region for the past nine years, said he was given his transfer letter recently. This, he said, was a big surprise to him as a very senior officer of the Department of Forestry.
He believes the transfer is linked to his involvement in blowing the whistle against the de-reservation of the Salagi Forest by Government and the illegal timber trade particularly the endangered species of the country’s fauna.
A concern of Forestry officials and environmentalists is that once the trade in endangered species of the country’s fauna is stopped, there should not be anything like the export of semi processed Rosewood (Kenoo) or the issuance of permit for their export by the Ministry.
Mr. Cham, who was the West Coast Regional Forestry Officer at the time of the Salagi Forest de-reservation issue, was in the middle of things during this period and had numerous meetings with the ‘All Forest Platform’ and the community of Sukuta together with environmental activists who wanted clarity about the de-reservation of the Salagi forest park.
Mr. Cham who has vast experience in forest related issues has been working with people in helping them understand and regenerate their forest parks, which number 77 in the country. He and his team is at the centre stage of exposing and intercepting forest products that are illegally felled or to be exported.
Speaking to Foroyaa, the President of ‘All Forest Platform Seekou Janko’, said they are displeased with the redeployment of Mr. Cham, adding that their platform is engaged in great work of reforestation in the region.
Janko indicated that Cham played an important role in the ‘Salagi forest issue and raising alarm on the exportation of timber logs,
President Janko said that they cannot really comprehend the reason behind his redeployment to the North Bank region. Janko said the West Coast Region has some forest parks controlled by both Government and the communities. He said most logs that come from outside the Southern borders of the Gambia pass through West Coast Region and this Region has been recognized as one of the entry points for forest products such as timber or logs.
Janko said it is region where people traded in logs openly on the numerous borders. He however said that with Mr. Cham’s arrival, this has been minimized to the level it has come today.
Information received by this medium indicates that communications involving Mr Cham relating to the de-reservation of the Salagi Forest Reserve and the purchase of vehicles for Governors from the National Forestry Fund (NFF) are issues that did not go down well with the Ministry.
Foroyaa got in touch with Mr Muhammed Jaiteh the Director of Forestry to get the view of the Directorate on the matter. He simply said the administrative board decided to redeploy Mr Ousainou Cham and made no further comment. Attempts to reach the Ministry of the Environment, was unsuccessful but a further attempt will be made.
||Posted - 28 Aug 2019 : 10:30:28
‘Salagi Forest Not Sold’
Foroyaa: August 27, 2019
By Hatab Nyang and Madiba Singhateh
Lamin B. Dibba, the Minister of the Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, on Saturday August 24th 2019, denied media claims that Government sold Salagi Forest to foreign investors.
Speaking to this reporter, Dibba said Government has never sold Salagi Forest to any foreign investor(s). The Minister explained that what actually happened regarding this particular forest was that there was a request from the Ministry of Local Government who needed to move and relocate heavy construction equipment from the OIC construction site to another area; that the site is at its finishing stages and the Ministry saw the need to move and relocate these equipment elsewhere; that this is the reason of the presence of the heavy machinery of contractors around the forest area where there is more space to enable them finish the last phase of the project.
He acknowledged that there was a request from the ministry of lands and regional government for a portion of the Salagi Forest Park to be made available to facilitate work at the OIC construction site which the Chinese government gave as a grant to the Gambian government. He added that this will enable them to continue the last bit of the construction, that is, the finishing stage to enable them to move the heavy machinery to a site where they will have more space.
The minister noted that even though there was a request for them to de-reserve the place, “that’s just part of a process, which includes an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and if EIA is rejected, that means it cannot work”.
“So, the process has just started, it has not been completed,” he said. “In fact I was so flabbergasted when I heard people saying government had sold this place to the Chinese for 7 million dalasis. How can the government do that?” he retorted.
The indigenes of Sukuta had voiced their anger at a meeting they had with a farmer’s association, called ‘‘All Farmers Platform’’, at the Salagi Forest Park. Concerns were raised at the meeting when they received information that a portion of Salagi Forest Park will be de-reserved, especially since the Alkalo of the village was not informed about the issue.
Speaking at the gathering, Ousainou Cham, the Regional Forestry Officer (RFO), said Salagi Forest Park was reserved for conservation in 1952 and was handed to the community of Sukuta for this purpose since then. He opined that to de-reserve the area now is against international conventions and the will of the Gambian people.
Saikou Janko, the President of the Farmers Platform, emphasised the importance of forest cover in the country and the impact it has on the lives of humans; adding that over the years they have intercepted activities of forest degradation from people who are punished for their offences.
Momodou Bojang, a representative of Sukuta said Government sold most of their lands before and no compensation was given to them; adding that Nemasu, Dalaba, Burusubi and Salagi Estates, are all part of Sukuta.
Sainey Touray, the Chairperson of the Environmental Select Committee of the National Assembly assured villagers that he heard their complaints and will table it at the next sitting of the National Assembly, when they resume in September. He called on the villagers to set up a committee of twenty members who will be invited to the National Assembly Select committee together with other stakeholders, on the issue.
Ahmed Manjang, an Environmentalist with the delegation informed villagers about the importance forests and natural resources d, and reminded them of the pollution already taking place in Gunjur.
||Posted - 20 Aug 2019 : 22:56:13
All Farmers Platform Critical Of ‘De-Reservation’ Of Salagi Forest Park’
Foroyaa: August 20, 2019
By Madiba Singhateh
On Monday 19th August, All Gambia Farmers Platform held a meeting at their office criticising the alleged de-reservation of part of the Salagi Forest Park.
According to them, the ministry of the Environment has approved the de-reservation of part of the Salagi Forest Park, which they are opposed to.
Salagi Forest Park is one of the last forest parks standing within that area after the government had previously demarcated the Bijilo forest /monkey park for the construction of the OIC conference hall.
They say about 30 hectares of the Salagi Forest Park has been demarcated for the stationing of construction equipment.
Speaking at the meeting, Kebba Jammeh from the Plantation section head in Nyambai said they are worried about the demarcation of forests knowing the importance forest and forest management in the country.
Momodu Bojang speaking on behalf of the Alkalo expressed concerns that their lands and now their forests are being given away.
The meeting ended late and this reporter did not have the opportunity to get the opinion of the ministry, but this will be done today.
||Posted - 20 Aug 2019 : 22:33:29
LETTER TO THE MINISTER
Environmental Protection Challenges and Unsustainable Exploitation of Environmental Resources in The Gambia
“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”- Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Your Excellency, It is with a heavy heart I write to convey to you the trend of environmental damage in The Gambia. Destructions ranging from deforestation (wood theft) and export through our port, encroachment into our protected areas by Chinese factories (Brikama Nyambai Forest)and citizens, Unsustainable exploitation of marine resources and government decisions to de-reserve forests for development purposes. I wish to kindly remind you of The Gambia’s commitments at international treaties and conventions such as the UNFCCC, UNCBD, UNCCD etc
Sir, Article 3 of the Convention on Biological Diversity states that, “States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction”. By this, I believe that the actions of some Gambian-Chinese-Senegalese collaborations to steal wood in the Senegalese region of Cassamance and exported through the port of the Gambia is not in line with the above article.
Honorable Minister, The level of environmental damage in the Gambia and the unsustainable exploitation of our marine resources by the Chinese Fishmeal Factories is appalling and if regulatory measures are not taking, serious food security crisis will hit the nation. This is a potential threat to peace and stability in the country. There is a complete shift in the seasonal patterns of The Gambia thereby leaving farmers in despair due to lack of rainfall. This is Climate Change. We must redefine our anthropogenic activities in order to confront the crisis with robust actions, research and awareness creation including creation of alternative social-economic engagements for those who depend on environmental resources directly for survival.
With humility and great concern, I wish to call on the government through your line ministry to consider environmental protection and preservation as an important sector of national and sustainable development. The intended de-reservation of the Salaji forest as highlighted in a letter addressed to The Solicitor General and Legal Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, dated the 30th July, 2019, contravenes Article 1 of the CBD and our quest to protect our remaining flora and fauna. This intended de-gazetting will cause serious environmental damage to the protected area and irreparable biodiversity loss. Almost all protected forests in the Gambia are facing serious threats of destruction by members of society and the government.
As a Civil Society actor on environment, I wish to bring to your attention that the socio-economic and environmental sustainability of our societies solely depend on decisions at the level of the executive. If we cannot gazette more land as forest parks, we kind seek to maintain the already existing ones including the salaji Forest.
Gaylord Nelson once said "The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”l hope that the decision to de-reserve the Salaji Forest will be reconsidered. The government may have to consider banning timber logging and its export through the Gambian while pave a mechanism for sustainable exploitation of our marine resources. Thank you while I look forward to your kind consideration and esteem.
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