By Madiba Singhateh/Louise Jobe
The Alkalo of Brikama and the department of Forestry have warned people to desist from occupying forests reserved lands within the country, despite the continuous encroachment of people in the area. Forestry official Buba Bojang said people have encroached on the forest park fire belt. He said family members are illegally occupying and selling part of the fire belt of Kabifita forest park.
Buba who is the section head in charge of the plantation has letters from concerned Forestry department officials warning people to desist from all forms of activity or development in the said area, with immediate effect.
Bojang said the park is a gazzeted Forest Park since 1960, and it cannot be reclaimed for any other purpose or use by any individual or institution.
Another letter in the custody of Forestry officials indicated that those individuals who sold lands in the area, said their o lands were confiscated by the state and given to Jah Oil; that this is why they took the area as compensation for them. According to Bojang, Section 39 to 57 of the Forest Act which deal with the formation of Forest parks in the country and the declaration of their formation, Forest parks cannot be reclaimed as settlements.
Accusations were said to have been levied against the Alkalo of Bojang Kunda, Modou Bojang, who is alleged to have sold plots of land located on the fire amenity belt, which he has since denied.
According to the Alkalo, the plots of land he sold are not part the forest; that if the Department of Forestry wanted people to know their boundaries, they should erect fences to demarcate the area in order to avoid encroachment.
The Alkalo of Brikama who lives in Suma Kunda Ansumana Njie Bojang, said he was among those who demarcated the forest; adding they made no documents for people who had land in the forest area. He said they called a meeting regarding the encroachment of the forest. Njie said the forest boundary is where Gmeiliners trees have been planted; that Nyambai, Kabita and Furiyaa forest parks belong to the department of Forestry. He said the demarcation he did, was done with his colleague and brothers, together with an officer from the department to separate the forest area from other lands. He said people were warned to desist from selling lands inside the forest belt, which he said they never did.
When contacted, the Director of Forestry Mohammed Jaiteh, said they are aware of the encroachment happening in the forest, and they are coordinating efforts with stakeholders to look in the matter.