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. 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.