One of the leading faces of environmental activism in the Gambia has raised a red alarm at the alarming rate the country is losing her rich remaining flora and fauna.

“The Gambia is faced with dire environmental problems ranging from deforestation, unsustainable coastal mining, poor solid waste management, pollution, squatting among a range of indiscriminate activities leading to a great loss of biodiversity. These issues compounded with ineffective policy enforcement, corruption, and weak institutions has resulted in exponential growth in the current environmental crisis in the country,’ Omar Saho, US based Gambian Environmentalist told The Alkamba Times.

The activists comments came after a protest led by environmentalists denouncing governments attempts to reclaim a major ecological site, allowing a Chinese company to build structures at the old Cycle Track next to the Palma Rima Hotel in The Gambia.

According to local environmental Activists, the  famous wetland serves as a major hotspot for ornithologist (bird watchers) visiting the Gambia.  The highly eco sensitive area also serves as a habitat and stop-over for an estimated 150 species of birds. The place is used as a rice paddy for local people whose livelihoods and source of survival depends on rain-fed agriculture.

Speaking from his base in Seattle, Washington State Saho said “Gambians doesn’t need any additional foresight to establish that they country is on a slippery slope towards a major environmental and livelihood crisis. Contention in coastal communities about fishmeal industries, loss of habitat for our endemic species, the Faraba Bantang incident and recent debacle at the Old Cycle Track are clear examples.’

He further told Alkamba Times that the reclaiming of the old Cycle Track is a dire example of the stopping developments in highly ecological sensitive zone with close proximity to major hotels in Senegambia and Fajara beach area.

‘This areas provides a great habitat for diverse birds species and also gives a fantastic livelihoods and leisure opportunities to citizens and tourists alike. Selling that place tells you what type of institution, policies, and leadership we have in the Gambia as far environmental and natural resource conservation is concerned.’

Expressing his anger at governments inability to resolve environmental degradation, Saho said: ‘ I’m sad and depressed that I witnessed most of these environmental problems in my life time and history will judge me so badly for been inconsiderate of future generations. This is how I see myself in the bigger picture of environmental challenges facing the Gambia, because it’s the inaction of all of us that is failing this country.’

The staunch environmentalist and strong advocate for ecological sustainability in the Gambia added that ‘the country needs effective policy enforcement, honest decision-makers, and an awakened citizenry to avert any potential environmental disaster in the country. Our policy makers need to see country before self. Our environment and natural resource-based institutions need to review and enforce existing policies without any corrupt practices. The citizens need to  understand that within a relatively short period of time, we will face unimaginable loss of most environmental resources  in the name of development “which is not pro-poor and sustainable”. In this regard, there is simply no time to waste.’

Facing recent developments at the old cycle road ecological advocates are urging urgent and ambitious action at every level to address environmental problems in the Gambia.

It’s a cross cutting  approach according to Saho who told Alkamba Times that everyone from ministers, governors, and local area councilors and private sector leaders need to act now to effectively resolve environmental issues at every step of the supply chain which includes tourism stakeholders and investors committing to more eco friendly and green investments.

Mr. Omar Saho Environmentalist
Mr. Omar Saho Environmentalist

Mr. Saho believes everyone has the ability to do something to address current environmental challenges in the Gambia and help protect the countrys fast depleting fauna and flora.

Separated into two halves by a meandering river, the Gambia is blessed with a unique ecosystem and biodiversity that once marked rich gallery forests, luxurious woodlands and ecological reserves sporting a great variety of trees and plant species. These ecological resources have immensely depleted amid increasing deforestation, exploitation and developments that largely alter untouched habitats keeping the countrys traditional flora and fauna.

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Mr. Sainey M.K. Marenah is a Prominent Gambian journalist, founding editor The Alkamba Times and formerly head of communications at the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and Communications and PR Consultant for The Gambia Pilot Program, under Gamworks. Mr. Marenah served as the Social media Strategist and Editor at Gambia Radio and Television Services. He is also the Banjul Correspondent for Voice of America Radio. Sainey is a human rights and developmental journalist who has carved a strong niche particularly in new media environments in the Gambian media industry. Mr. Marenah began his career as a junior reporter with the Point Newspaper in the Gambia in 2008 and rose through the ranks to become Chief correspondent before moving to The Standard Newspaper also in Banjul as Editorial Assistant and head of News. He is a household name in the Gambia’s media industry having covered some of the most important stories in the former and current government. These include the high profile treason cases including the Trial of Former military chiefs in Banjul in 2009 to 2012. Following his arrest and imprisonment by the former regime of President, Yahya Jammeh in 2014, Marenah moved to Dakar Senegal where he continues to practice Journalism freelancing for various local and international Media organization’s including the BBC, Al-Jazeera, VOA, and ZDF TV in Germany among others. He is the co-Founder of the Banjul Based Media Center for Research and Development; an institution specialized in research and development undertakings. As a journalist and Communication Expert, focused on supporting the Gambia's transitional process, Mr Marenah continues to play a pivotal role in shaping a viable media and communications platform that engages necessary tools and action to increase civic participation and awareness of the needs of transitional governance to strengthen the current move towards democratization. Mr. Marenah has traveled extensively as a professional journalist in both Europe, Africa and United States and attended several local and international media trainings.

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