By Alagie Manneh
Environment minister, Rohey John Manjang, has defended a cabinet decision to de-gazette parts of the Nyanibere forest.
Cabinet discussed the proposal last month in October, dismaying environmental activists who said no valid reason justifies the decision.
But speaking for the first time on the issue, in an interview with The Standard, the minister said in taking the decision government is serving the interest of the general public. She said the alternative is to evict the people already settled in Nyanibere and that would equally generate more issues because people have already invested in those settlements. “If government takes a decision to evict that entire community currently living there, you journalists would be among the first to say why. And when a presidential announcement was made in 2014 de-gazetting parts of these forests, you were here as a journalist but you did not raise any query,” she asked. The minister said what government is doing now is to put things in order and correct the situation for the future. “This decision was not made by this government and we are just trying to regularize things and make sure that we correct the situation to avert future consequences of social challenges and protect the land from further encroachment,” she said.
Asked if the decision to take part of the forest will not undermine the country’s fight against climate change, the minister said wherever you have an increasing population, you will be faced with the issue of land management. “What government can do is to make sure that we set the record straight and avoid further conflict, and make sure we reduce the original size that was given by the former government. The decision to de-gazette these forests was not made today. People have to understand we are serving biodiversity for human interest, and not for any other interest. What we can do is to have a mitigated action to remedy any arising damage. The fact is that today, we have forests that even some gardens are stronger than when it comes to vegetation, because we are losing the forest cover,” she said.