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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Letters : Environmental degradation: who is responsible?

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Dear editor,

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This article is an environmental assessment analysis on our level of exploitation and how we are constantly degrading our environment within the West Coast Region of The Gambia. The rhetorical question, however, does not intend to point fingers at anyone. On the contrary, it intends to evoke thought and to remind us of our level of responsibility to protect our environment.

Ordinarily, as an environmental science student at The University of The Gambia, I cannot remain silent over these pressing issues. Like Leopold highlighted in his book A SOUND COUNTRY ALMANAC, “for us…. the chance to see pasque- flower is a right as inalienable as freedom of speech”. We should understand that there are laws that govern the universe, and our natural environment interacts with us and other factors to make up a system. I must emphasize that the government, environmental organizations, policymakers as well as us the civilians all have a role to play to ensure we live in a comfortable environment free from pollution.

Evidently, we can all attest to the fact that the most ubiquitous things we see on the streets are flying papers and plastic bags. Thus, it is disheartening that we are responsible for the biggest problem in our comfort and health. It is proven beyond reasonable doubt that there is a positive correlation between the environment and our health. One will debate that it is the populace that fails to execute their duty for proper waste disposal. Others, on the contrary, will wholeheartedly debunk this idea by blaming the Government and KMC for not providing enough bins in every street or corner across the country. But, to be rational enough we all should admit the fact that we have a role to play to put an end to this devastating condition.

The researchers will ask the question “where are these papers coming from?” It is observed that importing newspapers in our home country has become a new source of earning. However, I refuse to believe that it is the same papers that we use to wrap our bread; I also can’t believe that it is the same Gambia that claims to have the problem of proper waste disposals. Undoubtedly, this is why the pungent smell emanating from the Bakoteh dump site is worse than that of the ammonium gas. As a nation, we should be innovative in nature by looking for a positive alternative, rather than paying our monies to fill our environment with filth.

Moreover, illegal logging or lumbering has become perturbing. Although I may not be able to clearly point out the individuals involved in this malicious practice, if they have received warrant from the Government or that they are just some collusive threats to the society but I believe everyone can attest to the fact that the then dense forest of the Brikama forest park is undergoing a steady decline in the past years. Forest are the lungs of the world, thus how long are we going to keep watching this happen before our eyes, have we not already lost much of our biodiversity?. It is in times like these when we (the youths) should be our own forest watchers to preserve our resources because the future belongs to us and the younger ones. I reiterate logging or lumbering is clearly illegal; illegal in the sense that it is against the environmental laws of the country quoting from The Gambia Forestry Act 1998.

Suffice, no one can explain better how it feels to have these logging industries establish next to your home. Where on earth are such industries established in the midst of the people? This is quite inconsolable and I can clearly serve as a case study of this phenomenon. If you smell the fumes coming from these wood cutting machines, you can clearly conclude that these by-products are not meant to be inhaled by Homo sapiens. On a more serious note, one will never overemphasize the level of noise pollution caused by these types of machinery. If these workers can be clearly seen using nose mask and Head phones as SOPS, I doubt if we the inhabitants will not develop long term condition (side effects) over these devastating conditions. Ohhh….with this, both the people and the environment of our dear motherland are shedding tears of discomfort.

Most importantly, I will not do justice to this issue without elaborating on the poor road network and infrastructural planning. The Gambia is known for narrow roads and busy streets. We could have done better. With a population of just some two million, we are still one of the most densely populated countries in West Africa. This could have been the least expected if proper planning was made in the initial stage. Presently, a road survey (The cause and effects of traffic congestion) is being conducted by the UTG students under the Education and Research Ministry of the University of The Gambia Students Union (I hope the recommendation acquired from this survey will be used by authorities to implement policies. The issues of poor planning do not just stop on poor road networks but also reflects on the allocations of lands and the poor positioning of infrastructural facilities. Thus, in days like these when the Gambian populace is shooting the slogan “New Gambia, “it becomes significant for the populace to become wary and informed of these planning issues for future benefits “Never again”.

Last but not least; I will just like to elaborate on what I call misplaced priorities. As a native of a place like Talinding Farokono, I can clearly tell how urgent a matter it is to have a proper drainage system. Villages within the Serekunda region like Tallinding, Ebo town, and Fajikunda are all faced with the same constraints; even in the dry season, there are gutters all over the place making it difficult for inhabitants to move freely. These ditches or gutters are all filled with contaminants and they also serve as the primary breeding places for mosquitoes if you can just imagine the health implication. However, I personally believe this can be easily laid to rest if the government realizes and identifies these issues as an immediate concern, thereby initiating projects that will be able to develop the living standard of the people in areas like these. Moreover, governments should also focus on making policies that are environmentally friendly but not any devastating agreements like the Golden Lead factory.

In conclusion, I would like to contrast the points mentioned above by drawing attention to the history of The Gambia. Gone are the days when the Gambia was known across Africa and beyond for our beautiful and environmental friendly cultures. For instance, Banjul in the early 80 is totally different from the Banjul we know today – one filled with environmental hazards, and improper drainage system. Contextually, Bill Keane was right when he said, “Yesterday is history tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift of God”. Again, we should all understand that changes start within and that the little things we do right might save the lives of many. Thus, I will not do justice without commending the efforts of KMC for their recent establishment of bins in public places, but I will still emphasize on the fact that there is much more to be done. Also, I would like to say progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. Therefore, I suggest these recommendations as a way forward to enhance a positive shift in paradigm towards our environment: the implementation of the anti-littering Laws; Gambian citizens should be vigilant about issues concerning the environment; the Government should take environmental issues seriously; environmental agencies should be strengthened and given the necessary tools to periodically asses the environment; and forest managers should be trained and provided with the necessary resources to execute their duties.
Special thanks to Mr Ablie Sey, Editor at GRTS

Mansour Saine
Biology and Environmental science student
The University of The Gambia

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