By Fatoumatta K Jallow
The National Environment Agency (NEA), in collaboration with the European Union (EU) and other stakeholders, Saturday September 15th 2018, embarked on a massive beach cleansing exercise along the Gambian coastline, in commemoration of International Coastal Clean-up Day. The cleansing exercise took place in the four coastal settlements of Tanji, Senegambia, Bakau and Banjul. The first Lady Fatou Bah-Barrow and other Government officials, graced the occasion in Tanji.
The aim of the clean-up exercise is to increase public awareness and remove debris from the coastline and also collect valuable information about debris and type, and make positive change in people’s attitude towards environmental pollution, especially on our beaches.
The Minister of the Environment Lamin N Dibba, said every year, thousands of tons of waste that is thrown in the oceans, is 60% composed of plastics materials; that every day, more and more plastic accumulates on our beaches; that the careless disposal of these materials comes through sewages outfalls, merchant shipping, commercial fishing operators, and beachgoers, and that their disposal have dire consequences on marine ecosystem.
“Cleansing of our coastal and marine ecosystem is not only consistent to the objectives of the national cleansing day, but also in line with our obligations as enshrined in the National Environment Management Act (NEMA) 1994, and other national environment legislations and regulations.
The exercise will contribute to the people’s health and the environment, particularly our wetland ecosystems which support high biodiversity that we all depend on, for our livelihood,’’ he said.
Bakary Sanyang, the Governor of West Coast Region said preventing the littering of trash on the coastline, is key to our livelihood and the protection of marine resources.
The Programme Manager of the EU delegation to the Gambia, Darrell Sexstone, stated that 85% of litter that reaches our beaches worldwide, is plastic; that globally, millions of tons of plastic leak into the sea each year. “We all know that plastics are an important material in our economy, and modern daily life is almost unthinkable without them. At the same time however, they can have serious downsides on the environment and health. It takes hundreds of years to degrade, traps, injures and kills marine animals and disintegrates into micro plastics which are highly toxic and dangerous when they enter our food chain, and dangerous for our health, when eaten,” he said; that last year, the EU successfully hosted the ocean conference in Malta, which helped to build momentum for a global call for cleaner and safer seas and resulted in a number pledges.
Acting Director of Technical Services at the NEA, Dr. Dawda Badjie, said: “The International Coastal Clean-up began more than 30 years ago, when Ocean conservancy, an organisation that work to help protect the Ocean from the challenges it faces every year, rallied communities together with the common goal of collecting and documenting trash littering our coastlines.” According to him, trash in water, impacts the world on many levels, including harming wildlife, humans, and impacting the livelihood of those who work in the Ocean.