Famara Drammeh of the National Environment
Agency has said that natural disasters are becoming frequent worldwide making
the risk of disasters a global concern.
He said these disasters have created huge losses and damages to the economy, humans and society such as what has happened in Freetown, Texas and other parts of India and Bangladesh.
He made the statement during an interview with our reporter about the flood situation in The Gambia
The downpour of rains in the country recently has caught them off guard creating massive destruction across the country leaving many families homeless.
He said the main question was how prepared are we as a nation to respond to similar flooding or bigger magnitude of flooding??
“The Gambia is a low land coastal state with high vulnerability to flooding and sea-level rise. Some parts of our capital city (Banjul) is 0.5m below sea-level, especially around ports (ferry terminal) and Bond Road areas,” he said.
He declared that that meant a slight increase in sea-level or high precipitation above normal range could possibly flood the entire capital city.
Mr Drammeh revealed that the pump house/ levee constructed at Bond Road was currently not operational.
He quizzed what measures were in place to protect life, properties and key infrastructure in the city.
“I am not entirely sure about the existence of land use policy, zoning and building codes in The Gambia to keep citizens away from waterways,” he noted.
“However, we are witnessing an increase in the number of new homes being built on high flood risk areas mostly in the Kanifing Municipal Council and West Coast Region,” he said.
The real estate companies are busy selling plots of land to citizens in areas that were rice fields or swampy areas without EIA or due consideration to the potential climate change, Mr Drammeh stated.
In the future, when those areas got flooded, who would be responsible, landowners, real estate companies or the Government, he asked
According to Mr Drammeh, The Gambia’s dependency on sand for construction is taking away beautiful beaches, nesting grounds for the endangered marine turtles, land for horticultural gardening, cultural and heritage sites and most importantly leaving the coastal communities more vulnerable to the impact of flooding.
He said mining is not done in accordance with EIA guidelines, and in most cases no supervision was done to ensure that the mining companies do not dig deep down to the water table or stop cutting vegetation found on site.
He stated that at the end of mining at each location, the companies would simply leave and move to the next site without restoring the damaged areas as required by the National Environment Management Act (NEMA).
According to Mr Drammeh, most of these abandoned sand mining sites, especially in Kartong are flooded all year around and infested with mosquitoes increasing the risk of malaria in the village.
Crocodiles are now harboring in the pools posing another threat to women in their vegetable gardens, he warned.
He said Gunjur, Sanyang and Batokunku are now facing a similar situation, adding that ecosystem played a vital role in biodiversity conservation and flood control in the area.
“Our environment sector is currently going through difficult times in view of the waste problems going in KMC, Banjul and around Tanji wetlands ecosystem, timber trade to China, habitat destruction and fragmentation in Brufut woods, Bijilo Forest Park and marine pollution at Gunjur Beach.”
He cautioned that unless the Government reconsiders environmental protection as a national priority and fulfill her obligations to the various International Conventions such as UNCBD, UNFCCC, UNCCD and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, disaster would be inevitable and more pressure would be on the National Disaster Management Agency.