25.2 C
City of Banjul
Monday, October 2, 2023

Kiang West forest plight: forestry office under scrutiny


By Ebrima Bah

The Kiang West, known for its luxurious greenery and pristine forests, is currently grappling with a distressing issue that has left its residents both bewildered and concerned. The forest, once a sanctuary for diverse wildlife and a source of immense beauty, has fallen prey to increased illegal logging in recent months.

Amidst the rising concerns over the forest’s well-being and mounting frustration with the perceived inefficiency of the Forest Authority in addressing the issue, residents decided to take matters into their own hands.

Determined to protect their beloved natural treasure, Nioro Jattaba village organised groups of vigilant individuals who scoured the forest, uncovering and impounding logs illegally extracted from their very own backyard.

In a sudden twist, the forestry office, that should have been at the forefront of investigating the crimes committed against the forest, surprised everyone by asserting rights over the impounded logs. This unexpected claim, instead of addressing the illegal logging, has sparked confusion and suspicion among the villagers.

They had hoped for the forestry office to act as a custodian of the forest, safeguarding its integrity and punishing those responsible for the unlawful activities.

IMG 20230621 WA0001

As news of the forestry office’s claim spreads throughout the community, online discussions and debates have intensified. Citizens are sharing their concerns, venting their frustrations, and demanding a thorough investigation into the alleged misappropriation of the logs.

Contacted to shed light on the situation, Yahya Nyassi at the Dumbuto Forestry based responsible for Nioro Jattaba acknowledge some challenges confronting forest protection in the region, he however assured his office’s commitment to leave no stone unturned.

“This is a big step. If the community  mobilised themselves in such a big move, it is an advantage [for the safety of the forest]. We appreciate their efforts [because] if every community is capable of doing this, then things will be easier for us”, he said.

Mr Nyassi pledged to empower the Nioro and her surrounding communities with understanding of the Forestry Act, as he looks forwards to a more active participation of the rural residents in repelling illegal activities in the forest.

Environmental activists have also joined the chorus of dissent, calling for an independent inquiry into the matter. They argue that the primary focus should be on identifying and apprehending the culprits responsible for the illegal logging, rather than diverting attention towards the ownership of the confiscated logs.

According to the Forestry Act on the ‘Seizure of forest produce’, “Forest Officer, Regional Governor or police officer not below the rank of a Sergeant may himself or herself, or by any person acting under his or her directions, seize any forest produce suspected of having been unlawfully obtained or being unlawfully removed and any instrument or thing reasonably suspected of having been used in the commission of any offence under this Act.”

IMG 20230621 WA0003

Section 121 (3) states: Where the forest produce is abandoned or where the person suspected of having committed the offence in respect of which forest produce has been seized has absconded after the seizure, the forest produce shall be handed over to the Regional Forest Officer who, after obtaining an order of a Magistrate, may-

(a) sell such forest produce and pay the proceeds as specified in section 97, after deducting the expenses of the sale.

(b) allocate such forest produce to the use of the Government, or

(c) destroy such forest produce when necessary

The Spokesperson of Nioro Jattaba on the forestry affairs, Samba Lawo Bah said that they are determined to remain vigilant and resolute in their pursuit of justice for their beloved forest. “I hope that our collective voice will be heard, leading to a comprehensive investigation into the illegal logging activities and bringing the true culprits to justice”, he said.

Kiang West stands at a crossroads, and the actions taken now will determine the future of its precious forest. The community remains hopeful that through their unity and unwavering commitment, they can reclaim the serenity and beauty of their once-thriving natural paradise.

Join The Conversation
- Advertisment -spot_img