By Kebba Secka

The Ministry of the Environment on Friday November 9th 2018, held a press conference to renew Government’s commitment on the ban on plastic bags. Speaking at the ceremony, the Minister of Environment Lamin Dibba, said the ban on plastic is still effective adding that anybody found wanting, would be prosecuted according to Law. “People think the change of Government has not affected the ban on plastics. The ban is a Law. It is an Act that was enacted by the National Assembly,” he said. He went on to highlight the dangers that plastic waste poses to the environment saying it’s effects are hazardous to mankind and other living things. “It takes one hundred years for plastic to decay,” Minister Dibba said.

He dilated on climate change saying cabinet has approved an inter-Ministerial committee, to perform oversight functions to promote climate change policies. According to him, the inter-Ministerial committee would comprise Ministries whose activities in one way or the other, has effect(s) on the environment. “We have developed a natural resources policy and we are closely working with the Ministry of Agriculture, to finally have cabinet paper on this. This will enhance collaboration within Ministries, to tackle challenges faced by our sectors,” he added. Dibba highlighted the achievements registered in the flora and fauna of the country, with particular reference to the Kiang West Nature Reserve.

Emphasizing environmental conservation and cleanliness, the Director of the National Environmental Agency (NEA) Mamadou Jama Suwareh, said plastics and plastic bags were banned in since 2015. “Although, few forms of plastic bags were exempted when former president Jammeh imposed the ban, the NEA had followed due procedures at the National Assembly, to ensure that the ban is part of the Constitution,’’ he said.

According to Suwareh, the NEA tried to get a Company to recycle plastic waste in the country, but that the conditions attached to the request by these Companies, had been difficult for the Agency to guarantee.

He reiterated on the availability of plastic bags in our homes and markets; that the Law against its ban is still active and can be used to prosecute anybody found wanting. “So far, more than one hundred people are standing trial at the High Court because of an infringement on the Law,” he informed.

On Golden Lead allegations that they were disposing waste in the sea, Director Suwareh said: “In fact, the waste produce by the alleged industry, was used by the women of Gunjur as manure, in their horticultural activities,” he said; that the claims and allegations of activists against Golden Lead Factory’s waste disposal into the sea, were unsubstantiated allegations.

On the issue of giving out Licenses to industries, Suwareh said NEA does not give license but gives clearance based on a factory meeting their requirements; that stakeholders of the environment such as Physical Planning, Geology Department and NEA, work together before a License is given to any factory to operate in the country.

Dr. Dawda Badjie reiterated, that there is no factory in the world that can claim zero emission of pollution; but that minimizing its negative effects is the priority of all including the Gambia. He warned against the burning of plastic by women before cooking, saying this can have serious health implications on the people who eat that diet.

Muhammed Jaiteh, the Director of Forestry, explained that half of four hundred and twenty-three thousand hectares of forestry in the country, will be given to communities to manage; that this was why the Community Forestry plan was initiated by Government. Jaiteh said in order to boost forestry to meet National Development Plan goals, staff capacity building and a Forestry School is deemed necessary; that the Ministry will refurbish the Forestry School in Kafuta, were new graduates will be trained on forestry and forest matters.

Other speakers at the Press conference were the Minister of Communication and Infrastructure Ebrima Sillah and Government Spokesperson Ebrima Sankareh.

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