Gunjur people are betrayed by Politicians - Famara Drammeh
Focus on Wildlife, Disaster and Environment! Gunjur people are betrayed by Politicians!
Focus on Wildlife, Disaster and Environment! Gunjur people are betrayed by Politicians! Kudos to National Environment Agency(NEA) and Ministry of Environment for the joint press conference yesterday. This is what we expect from public institutions especially where the general public are in need of information on environmental issues affecting human health and livelihood. In my view the press conference is little too late, it should have happened a year ago when the obstruction of justice occurred as a result of Government's intervention. But as the saying goes " it's better late than never", we appreciated your efforts. It is important to understand that Golden Lead sagga is mainly centered on two fold: First, the waste water discharge into the ocean and other water bodies in Gunjur, especially in the lagoon of Bolongfenyo Community Wildlife Reserve and the environs, whicj is impacting on the ecosystem and species. The second aspect is the issue of unsustainable utilization of our pelagic fisheries resources, which is also contributing to decline in catch of "bonga fish"and other small pelagic species mainly consumed and affordable by the majority of Gambians. Therefore all these two aspects of Golden operation must be carefully considered in longer-term. The Ministry of Fisheries were not present at the Press Conference yesterday ( am not sure if they were invited or not) to shed light on the sustainability of Golden Lead's operation, considering that Fishmeal production by Golden Lead is largely based on the pelagic fisheries, which is the source of protein for the majority of Gambians. Now putting it into context, 32,000 bags of fish meal on a weekly basis is not only unsustainable but also threatening food security and the livelihood of the local fishermen/fish traders as well as making it difficult in our collective fight against poverty as a nation. Therefore the NEA has an obligation to ensure that experts from Fisheries Department are monitoring the catches of the Golden Lead and ensure that it is online with the NEMA and Fisheries policy and regulations. Failure to adhere will in the long run affect the supply of fish in the Gambia especially in the rural villages in the provinces who depends on "bonga fish" for their daily meals. Also, it is important that the use of power equipment such as bulldozer to transport catches from the boat to the factory on the beach to be stopped with immediate effect, as it contravenes the NEMA, 1994. On the other hand, the Water Quality Assessment reports from National Environment Agency- conducted in Gambia and Senegal is contradicting with the report from community of Gunjur- conducted in Germany. The NEA did not officially released the results of their Water Quality Report( or maybe I missed it) but the community of Gunjur have released their Assessment report, and we can clearly relate the contradiction between the two. Now the question is who is wrong and who is right? One way of determining that is to invite independent expert review to carefully compare and contrast the two reports and come with recommendations to the best interest of the human and ecosystem health. Until that is done the burden of the proof will certainly be on the shoulder of the NEA. If any health complications emerge in the near future as result of coming into contact with contaminated water, then the Government of the Gambia and NEA will be totally responsible. In my view the NEA is taking a big risk putting so much trust in Golden Lead to discharge their waste water into ocean. Local fishermen/Communities and tourist are at risk of contracting water borne infection or diseases if Golden Lead failed in their responsibility to adhere to the conditions attached to their environmental approval. I will not trust a company that was found wanting on four counts of environmental violations as well as operating on expired licenses! The big questions we will keep asking until all the facts gathered are: Why did the Executive/Government of the Gambia intervened to obstruct justice when Golden Lead were dragged to court by NEA? What vested interest does our government have in Golden Lead that warranted them to stopped the court procedures and take decision to settle the matter out of court?? Why did the NEA accept the Executive order to settle the matter to court? What terms and conditions were attached to the out of court settlement? How much did Golden Lead pay to NEA/Government?? Infact, under the normal circumstances as per the NEMA, the executive have no power to obstruct justice. The out of court settlement on environmental issues can only be decided at the level of the National Environmental Management Council meeting chair by the President. The President or Ministers of Environment, Trade or Fisheries alone cannot make that decision. It's an open secret that the National Environment Management Council have not convened a meeting well over a decade. So who unilaterally made the decision to stop the court action against Golden Lead?? We also understand NEA benefitted from a study tour to Ghana funded by Golden Lead. What was the purpose of the trip to Ghana, why receiving favor from them?? I have a very strong conviction that the people of Gunjur are betrayed by the politicians and if I am wrong I seek forgiveness from Allah for thinking wrongly. However, It's no coincidence that the entire executive including the National Assembly Select Committee on Environment, Majority leader and the Councilor who all hailed from the same community are keeping quiet over the issue for over a year now. What did they know that we don't know? Who is sitting on the truth and defending falsehood in order to exploit the poor local communities who depend these resources that Chinese are exploiting on daily basis with impunity. How forgetful are our public servants and Politicians we voted in office to represent our interest. Am pretty sure none of these politicians or the executive are feeding their families with "bonga fish", so they don't give damn whether there is a shortage or not, because they have enough in their pockets to feed their families with expensive fish or meat which is unaffordable by the poor. If you can't help the poor don't inflict suffering on them. If you do not come from a coastal Community or a poor background you will never understand the suffering of the poor. I am from a coastal community and my mum and elder sister were engaged in fish trade, through which some of us got educated until we graduated. So I totally feel the frustrations of the community trying to defend their health and livelihood from Chinese exploitation. Perhaps this will be last post on this Golden Lead sagga until Allah set us free! He knows those defending falsehood to protect their interest, and position inexpense of the livelihood and health of the poor communities. Some day we will all be answerable to the most high.. and he will judge us on our honesty, commitment to nation building and how we treat people who have less power than we did while serving in office. For the politicians, the best way to respond to them is at the ballot box. Sooner or later the Executive power will be in the hands of someone else completely different and I hope the person will listen to the concern of the poor coastal communities and put the last nail on the coffin and close Golden Lead for good. Never ever again! For Gambia our Homeland, Let justice guide our actions towards the common good.