Kaira CLO Organizes Maiden Circular Symposium

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By Assan Bah

The Kairaba Conservation and Leadership Organization (KairaCLO) recently held the First Edition of a Circular Symposium in honour of the late Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara on the theme: “Waste Management and Transformation Opportunities in the Gambia”.

According to the organizers of the Symposium, the activity is part of the activities aimed at celebrating the centenary anniversary (100 years) of Sir DawdaKairabaJawara, the First President of the Republic of the Gambia. They said his Visionary Message contained in the Banjul Declaration delivered 47 years ago, inspires the theme of the symposium.

They said the management of solid waste is one of the major environmental challenges facing the Gambia, due to the unsustainable production and consumption patterns which are a direct result of the traditional linear business model of Take-Make-Use & Dump.

“Unplanned urbanization has led to a phenomenal increase in the production of solid waste, estimated at more than 200% in the last two decades alone. With a population of around 1.5 million in urban areas, the daily average amount of solid waste per capita has steadily increased to around half a million tons,” the stakeholders said. 

“In 2023, waste was the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the Gambia, estimated at 23% after fossil energy emissions, which itself stands at 70%. Of these emissions, around 95% of the waste generated comes from household and commercial activities. The following have been identified as the main components of waste generated through household and commercial activities.”

According to them, a circular economy aims at lengthening the life cycle of products by promoting the recovery, re-cycling, and re-use, of products and materials using renewable energy as far as possible. They said the current level of waste dumped at dumpsites represents untapped opportunities for wealth generation. 

The Symposium, which was held at a local hotel in Bakau, and attended by government officials, prominent political leaders, members of Non-Government Organizations and members of the private sector, seeks to chart the scope of the circular economy within the Gambian economic and social context by analyzing the main types and quantities of waste which could be economically recycled. And also examine the economic opportunities for turning waste into commercial material resources.

Professor Sidat Yaffa, the Dean of the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at the University of the Gambia (UTG) & Director of the WASCAL Project – Gambia, said the late Sir Dawda had a vision in his Proclamation in the Banjul Declaration before the United Nations (UN) conceived of setting biodiversity in 1993.

“It is very important that Gambians embrace this from now on because it is the Gambian vision that contributed in my opinion to the setting up of the Intergovernmental Conference on Biodiversity by the United Nations in 1993 in Nairobi, Kenya,”Mr Yaffa said. 

He said even though Sir Dawda was a veterinarian by profession, he had the vision of how we should protect our flora and fauna which he said is very important and the younger generation should take this vision as it is very important.

He further said WASCAL, which is related to climate change in West Africa, has adopted a curriculum (PhD program) on climate change and biodiversity. “WASCAL and the University have both shown their visions and the UTG under the leadership of the Vice Chancellor is interested in supporting KairaCLO to sensitize Gambians on biodiversity conservation.   

Mr Bubu PatehJallow, Adviser to the Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, Rohey John Manjang, said the Gambia generates 0.53kg of Municipal Solid Waste per capita per day and this amounts to an overall daily MSW generation of approximately 702,000 kg. “Plastic waste accounts for 9 percent of MSW arising in the Gambia, with a daily generation rate of 63,000 kg, and about 1,256 kg/day of plastic waste leaks into the environment.

“Under the second NDC of the Gambia, urban and peri-urban solid waste generation is projected at 400,000 tons per day. Combined wastewater discharge into coastal waters from Banjul and tourism resorts is 5,000 cubic metres per day,” she said.

He further said the Gambia is one of the few countries committed to meeting the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 1.5C. He said, alongside reducing climate emissions, the Ministry of Environment is focused on protecting the country’s natural resources and building resilience to climate shocks such as droughts and floods.

“Implementing circular waste and recycling initiatives can play a significant role in avoiding greenhouse gas emissions, building climate resilience, and creating much needed sustainable livelihood opportunities,” he said.

According to him, the government intends to develop and implement eight (8) integrated waste management plans for the 6 local government areas and the 2 municipalities and said, “these comprehensive plans will be strategies…. action plans on waste gas recovery and organic waste recovery.”

While warning against the use of forest reserves as residential areas and the cutting down of trees to make charcoal, he implores on the private sector in the country to explore the mitigation of greenhouse gasses in all sectors.

Representing the President of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr James Bahoum, said, the environment has experienced many devastations which are mostly caused by man-made activities. 

He called on the private sector to work with the government to build the necessary infrastructure such as processing plants, decomposers and the use of both wet and dry pollutants to create electricity, heat and advance our aspirations for our greater industrialisation.