By Hatab Nyang and Madiba Singhateh
Lamin B. Dibba, the Minister of the Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, on Saturday August 24th 2019, denied media claims that Government sold Salagi Forest to foreign investors.
Speaking to this reporter, Dibba said Government has never sold Salagi Forest to any foreign investor(s). The Minister explained that what actually happened regarding this particular forest was that there was a request from the Ministry of Local Government who needed to move and relocate heavy construction equipment from the OIC construction site to another area; that the site is at its finishing stages and the Ministry saw the need to move and relocate these equipment elsewhere; that this is the reason of the presence of the heavy machinery of contractors around the forest area where there is more space to enable them finish the last phase of the project.
He acknowledged that there was a request from the ministry of lands and regional government for a portion of the Salagi Forest Park to be made available to facilitate work at the OIC construction site which the Chinese government gave as a grant to the Gambian government. He added that this will enable them to continue the last bit of the construction, that is, the finishing stage to enable them to move the heavy machinery to a site where they will have more space.
The minister noted that even though there was a request for them to de-reserve the place, “that’s just part of a process, which includes an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and if EIA is rejected, that means it cannot work”.
“So, the process has just started, it has not been completed,” he said. “In fact I was so flabbergasted when I heard people saying government had sold this place to the Chinese for 7 million dalasis. How can the government do that?” he retorted.
The indigenes of Sukuta had voiced their anger at a meeting they had with a farmer’s association, called ‘‘All Farmers Platform’’, at the Salagi Forest Park. Concerns were raised at the meeting when they received information that a portion of Salagi Forest Park will be de-reserved, especially since the Alkalo of the village was not informed about the issue.
Speaking at the gathering, Ousainou Cham, the Regional Forestry Officer (RFO), said Salagi Forest Park was reserved for conservation in 1952 and was handed to the community of Sukuta for this purpose since then. He opined that to de-reserve the area now is against international conventions and the will of the Gambian people.
Saikou Janko, the President of the Farmers Platform, emphasised the importance of forest cover in the country and the impact it has on the lives of humans; adding that over the years they have intercepted activities of forest degradation from people who are punished for their offences.
Momodou Bojang, a representative of Sukuta said Government sold most of their lands before and no compensation was given to them; adding that Nemasu, Dalaba, Burusubi and Salagi Estates, are all part of Sukuta.
Sainey Touray, the Chairperson of the Environmental Select Committee of the National Assembly assured villagers that he heard their complaints and will table it at the next sitting of the National Assembly, when they resume in September. He called on the villagers to set up a committee of twenty members who will be invited to the National Assembly Select committee together with other stakeholders, on the issue.
Ahmed Manjang, an Environmentalist with the delegation informed villagers about the importance forests and natural resources d, and reminded them of the pollution already taking place in Gunjur.
Gambia can count on EU support…’ – Ambassador Lajos
The European Union Ambassador to The Gambia, Atila Lajos has given assurances to His Excellency, President Adama arrow that his government can count on the support of the European Union so long as it remains on this democratic and transition path.
The EU Ambassador was at the State House on Monday, August 26, 2019, to hold what he described as “very constructive and very friendly meeting with President Barrow”. The EU has been a strong supporter of The Gambian transition and it made and fulfilled various promises, which were subject of review during the meeting.
The envoy said he has no doubt that The Gambia remains committed to democracy and the transition process. The meeting availed the two leaders the opportunity to review the processes and achievements that Gambia achieved in the past two-and-a-half years as part of the transition process. Other national issues and interests to the EU-Gambia partnership agenda were also put on the table.
“The Gambia has embarked on a journey that was not known in advance how it will look like. I think successes achieved in areas such as TRRC that is to facilitate national reconciliation, the Constitutional Review to draft a new constitution, or the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission are very good examples of achievements the government and the country can be very proud of,” Mr. Lajos told the press corps.
They also discussed issues related to overall fiscal situation in the country, the budgetary discipline, the indebtedness of the country and issues of potential future bottlenecks in national development. These discussions also include what can be done individually by each, individually and jointly.
“We talked in detail the reform processes to be continued in the country, and especially those in the security sector. We touched on other areas of importance for both sides such as migration, which is linked to The Gambia needing all its boys and girls to build up this country,” he added, noting that these are areas of national interest and of great importance to the European Union.