Gambians urged to protect forests, environment

15 December 2009

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Gambia —

Hon. Jatto Sillah, Gambian minister for Forestry and the Environment have emphasized the need for Gambians to commit more effort towards adequately protecting the environment from bush fire and also to preserve the country’s remaining flora and fauna, which would consequently ensure better management and sustainability of forestry and agriculture for the generality of the Gambian people. The Forestry minister’s call came at the beginning of the dry season during which bush fires are more common in the country, thereby causing great degree of destruction to the environment, forestry and also to the entire Gambian populace.
According to him, bush fires are common phenomena in many African countries as research has shown that over 70 percent of the Sub Saharan African forests are devastated by bush fire which also affects both human beings and animals. He said that many environmentalists are unanimous in laying the blame on human beings for the catastrophe that continue to ravage African rural areas, noting that in The Gambia, bush fires continue to relocate  many rural villages which have caused them to lose their valuable  properties and the  wild endangered species annually.
The Gambia government has chosen December 10th each year as National Anti Bush Fire Day in order to sensitize the Gambian community on how to protect the environment and the forest from bush fire which has dire consequences for the country. According to the Environment minister, the theme for this year celebration is ample and important in curbing bush fire and climate change.
The subject is just more than being timely when the country is exposed to the negative impacts of climate change, pushing the country to the extreme hot temperature with so long drought, dry and strong harmatttan wind. The controversial attitudes of people towards bush fire, said the minister, continue to expose us to extreme poverty, depletion of viable natural resources and thus ravaging our beautiful environment, forestry and livelihoods.
He continued that bush fire continuously poses serious threat to environment and livelihoods through the emission of chemical substances into the atmosphere, forcing the environment to shake in its patterns and causing pollution of the environment.
In its efforts to ensure that the country’s forests and forest resources are preserved, the Department of Forestry, acting for The Gambian government and the Food and Agricultural Organization will today December 15th validate the Revised Forest Law which was formulated in 1998, as part of their Technical Cooperation.  The review process, according to the official information from the department was contracted to a national legal practitioner for a period of five months.
The release, signed by Sambou B. Nget, national project coordinator noted that during the process, a thorough literature review of existing national policies and laws as well as international conventions to which The Gambia is signatory and various stakeholder consultations were conducted in order to bring on board the perspectives and concerns of both the Forestry Department and its stakeholders.
The release noted that the review process has articulated a comprehensive draft revised Act for the Department of Forestry, in order to incorporate all other feedbacks and recommendations from other partners and stakeholders for the finalization of the review process and compilation.
It could be recalled that the government has put stiffer measures on illegal bush fire, charcoal burning and cutting down of trees. Anybody found wanting of any of these, says the department, would face severe punishment, depending on the extent of the crime committed.
Meanwhile, a massive sensitization of communities across the country for them to be more vigilant and protect their community forests for income generating activities for the community and the government are ongoing by various stakeholders.
The National Environment Agency has also embarked on a massive sensitization campaign on protection of the environment for sustainable environment, and in August 2009  African Network for Environment Journalists (ANEJ-Gambia Chapter) in collaboration with officials from the NEA embarked on the sensitization campaign on the Adaptation of Coastal and Climate Change (ACCC) project to coastal villages in the Western Region  with objectives to develop and pilot a range of effective coping mechanisms for reducing the impact of climate change-induced coastal erosion in vulnerable regions in five  participating countries including The Gambia, Cape  Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal.
The National Environment Agency have also embarked on sensitization of communities on set-settal  and the anti-littering law  by training health inspectors and some area councils staff as prosecutors who would prosecute the offenders for littering. According to the agency, these steps are expected to bear good fruits in ensuring a clean environment for the Gambian people.

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