By Awa B. Bah
The National Assembly (NA) select committee on the environment, accompanied by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), on Friday June 8th 2018, made a clarion call for the full protection of the country’s environment from disposed industrial waste and unregulated mining. This was day three of the select committee’s tour of the West Coast Region. The committee visited Bafuloto quarry’s illegal dump site, Kitty Dumpsite and Kartong Sand mining area and fish landing site, to assess the status of the damage on the environment. As part of its assignment to assess environmental challenges and make recommendations to Government, the Chairman of the select committee Sainey Touray, led the committee. While explaining their mission, Touray said people should be responsible users of the environment; that the way spaces are being used and abandoned, is against the Laws that protect the flora and fauna of the country. He called on citizens and foreigners to know that they have a stake in the protection and preservation of the country’s environment.
Touray’s colleagues in the select committee emphasized the need for attitudinal change; that the environment is the most precious asset of any developing Country. They called for more sensitization for Companies to know that such places belong to the state and is not for personal use at the disadvantages of anyone. They said the waste generated, needs to be properly managed and the Gambia should not be seen as the dumpsite for the Western world.
At Bafuloto quarry’s illegal dump site, the whole environment is dilapidated with big holes and mounds of rocks, as a result of the activities that was done there before. According to experts, it is impossible for people to inhabit the area, because it is highly prone to flood. Some parts of the quarry is now used as a dumping ground for old vehicle tires and plastic waste, by anonymous people who dump in the area. The expert member of the select committee in his view, said it will take between twenty and thirty years before the place is completely rehabilitated which he said, requires lots of resources and attention.
The dumpsite at Kitty is another well isolated area in the midst of cashew trees with mounds of waste. Smoke filled the entire area. Both domestic and industrial waste can be seen littered all over the place. From the expert point of view, the place has been used for miners with heavy machines and now the local people extract clay from the site. The site could not be identified by but human activity such as construction, mining and dumping can be noticed. The site needs urgent to prevent it from indiscriminate dumping by unknown persons. Another place the committee inspected was the sand mining site in Kartong where heavy machinery and other mining equipment, were left to litter the mining ground. These machines according to the VDC Chairman and Alkalo of Kartong, were used by a Chinese mining Company to extract ‘blacksand’ for export; that the Company had the backing of the former government through Geology Department and the NEA; that the sand is exported to China for use as raw materials in glassware.
The committee called on the environment agency to further strengthen collaborations with the affected communities by sensitizing them on the environment; that they should not allow people to use the natural resource of the country, as they wish.
At the end of their day long inspection, members of the select committee expressed dissatisfaction with the Regional Council; that issues of contention emanating from the environment was just too much and needs urgent attention from the public and private individuals, to address it. They however assured that issues raised will be tabled in parliament for Government consideration.