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Friday, December 8, 2023
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Environment activists urge gov’t to reverse decision to de-gazette forests

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By Olimatou Coker

The Gambia Environmental Alliance has yesterday expressed opposition to de-gazetting of national parks and urged government to reverse the decision to de-gazette parts of Nyanaberi forest park in Jarra and Bijilo national park for office buildings, hotels and a village.

The cabinet last Thursday discussed such a proposal.

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But in this statement shared with the media, the GEA disagreed with the proposal and any justification for it:

β€œThe Gambia Environmental Alliance (GEA) expressed deep concern over the Government’s decision to de-gazette parts of Nyanaberi Forest Park in Jarra and Bijilo National Park for office buildings, hotels, and a village. These forests are vital to The Gambia’s biodiversity, under stress from encroachments and climate change.

Bijilo Forest Park (1952) and Nyanaberi Forest Reserve (1954) are home to diverse flora and fauna, including red colobus monkeys, hyenas, and unique bird species. These reserves enrich biodiversity, benefit communities, and boost the national economy through tourism. De- gazetting risks the sanctity of these natural habitats and endangered endangered species.

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GEA urges the Government to reverse this decision, upholding constitutional and legal obligations to protect the environment, notably the Banjul Declaration, Biodiversity and Wildlife Act, and Forestry Act. No valid reason justifies de-gazetting. It threatens the environment, paving the way for further encroachment as seen in Bijilo Forest Park. Continued encroachment in other locations exacerbates the threat to our environment. Communities already feel the impact of climate change, worsened by uncontrolled forest resource harvesting without restoration. Recent heavy downpours in the Central River Region, attributed to tree depletion, are alarming.

Disruption of natural habitats increases conflicts between mammals like monkeys and hyenas and human populations. Such encroachment jeopardizes safety and well-being. The GEA is resolute in its commitment to protecting our natural heritage. The Government must act to safeguard our parks, enforce environmental laws, and mitigate climate change effects”.

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