Bijilo Monkey Park

Dear His Excellency Mr. Barrow,

I’m writing to contribute to your efforts to rebuild and reshape the economy of our beloved country. I believe your administration must be aware of the numerous environmental issues across the length and breadth of the country. Mr. President we knew that you have inherited a country which was and is still battling with severe environmental problems such as unsustainable commercial sand mining along the southern coastline of the country, deforestation, overfishing in the Gambian water, poor waste-management, trade in endangered tree species such as Rosewood, and improper zoning of development projects in highly ecological sensitive areas among others. Mr. President last year, many environmentalists both locally and internationally have raised our concerns about the construction of Gambia International Conference Centre right at the heart of Bijilo Monkey Park. Months after laying the foundation of this facility we came to realize that other plans are on the way to build a Presidential Villa, an Ultra-Modern Shopping Mall, and 5 – Star Resort. His Excellency your personal attention and action to towards the political ecology of the Gambia could make a whole lot of difference in what surely will be the most important matter of our time and to the best interest future generations.

Mr. President for your attention Bijilo Forest Park is among the famous ecotourism sites in The Gambia, popularly visited by tourists staying in and around Senegambia – Bakotu Resort area, and thus creating huge revenue for the Gambian Government and as well provides employment opportunities for local youths as tourist guides. The park also serves as a unique study site for students and researcher interested in ecology and conservation in The Gambia. The park also provides a sanctuary for the endangered species of Western Red Colobus Monkey (Procolobus badius), African Rosewood (Pterocarpus erinaceus), Rhun palm (Borassus aethiopum) and is also a unique birding spot. The park serves as a natural defence against windstorm to the communities of Bijilo and Kerr Serigne, it as well supports in regulating coastal erosion. Mr. President your administration’s plans of identifying the park to build a Presidential Villa, an Ultra-Modern Shopping Mall, and 5 – Star Resort in this highly ecological sensitive area will result to a huge negative ecological impacts on the biodiversity and as well on conservation efforts of protecting threatened and endangered species inhabiting the forest park, and it will also disturb the advancement of ecotourism in The Gambia.

Your Excellency, I wonder whether there was any socio-ecological baseline study conducted towards the construction of Gambia International Conference Center in Bijilo Monkey Park and as well about the new proposed building projects on the pipeline, to look into the following: 1) what is going to be the future of the Monkeys at the Park? 2) What are we going to report to the next Conference of Parties on Climate Change and Desertification? 3) What information is Gambia Tourism Board / Ministry of Tourism going to explain to Birders visiting the country? 4) Do we have a road network to accommodate the traffic for the Presidential Villa, an Ultra-Modern Shopping Mall, and 5 – Star Resort during the rush hours of The Bertil Herding Highway? 5) What is going to be the future of youths who used the park as their livelihood source? 6) Would the proposed project result in the generation of waste that cannot be recycled, reused, or disposed of in an environmentally and socially sound manner? 7) Is the proposed project likely to negatively affect the income levels or employment opportunities of vulnerable groups? Mr. President upon pondering over the few mentioned questions, I am hereby appealing to your administration to consider ceasing any future development plans at Bijilo Monkey Park on bases of socio-ecological concerns of the citizenry and friends of The Gambia.

Your Excellency, yes it’s true we knew that the meeting industry is not yet fully realised in the Gambia, and has not been substantially contributing the economic growth of destination like other destinations such as Singapore, Australia, Germany, London, Kenya, and South Africa etc. In this vein, for the Gambia to truly attract and host The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other International, and Sub-regional events to create employment opportunities and enhance tourism market in the country, however, I hope that your administration should look into the opportunities of decentralizing development projects to other parts of the country.

His Excellency your office, through the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and line ministries, may develop a meeting industry development master-plan for the country if there is none, which should put into account the political ecology of the country. The Meeting Industry Masterplan of The Gambia should be a well oriented strategic plan exclusively for promoting the meeting industry in The Gambia, with emphasis on policies, strengthening institutional capacities, establishing a Meeting Incentive Convention & Exhibition planning and marketing office, developing a marketing and promotion master plan, develop the necessary human resource to run and manage the Gambia International Conference Center and as well put environmental issues into account. We got the vibrant cultures, well-designed hotels, great hospitality and good accessibility from most European and African countries. The environmental scenic area of the country can immensely contribute to the realisation of your development plans and strong policy emphasis should be placed on protecting the country’s remaining fauna and flora.

Your Excellency we have a responsibility as a nation to our future generations and to the world in building a country of prosperity for all, of which environmental issues cannot be seen as a simple subject but an integral of your development endeavours. I think it’s high time the Gambia as a country places emphasis on environmental quality measures and as well work on ISO certification of projects in The Gambia.

In conclusion, I respectfully appeal to you to look into the plight of the citizens and friends of The Gambia addressing environmental issues to your government both at home and away. We see environmental issues in the country as our responsibility to protect our environmental resources and maintain a clean environment that is sustainable for future generation. Mr. President, The Gambian people are highly optimistic that you are the CHANGE that the country has been yearning for and please prove us right in protecting Bijilo Monkey Park and as well address other environmental issues across the country. We count on your utmost consideration.

Sincerely Yours,

Omar A J Saho

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