On environmental degradation

Friday, September 21, 2018

Environmental degradation, instead of being tackled, appears to be worsening, as evident in the scorching heat in many cities, prolonged droughts during dry seasons and widespread floods and landslides during rainy seasons; a phenomenon sadly familiar to the people of The Gambia.

Policymakers have long been aware of the destruction, which is an inevitable consequence of development and the massive efforts to spur economic growth. Unsurprisingly, when the global green movement to reconcile humans with nature began decades ago, the New Order government decided to take environmental issues seriously, forming a state environment ministry.

History shows, however, that policies dealing with the environment, at both the national and regional levels, have failed to put an end to environmental degradation, which has, instead, accelerated. If we hold policymakers to account, we must recognize that they have compromised, if not betrayed, their commitments.

Nevertheless, no one doubts that leaders and policymakers could do a lot to protect the environment as part of their mandate. Environment safeguarding, in other words, can start with leaders and policymakers.

The public has been debating the provincial government’s plan to simplify the procedure to secure environmental worthiness letters, which property developers need to start their construction projects.

Edy said the new policy would cut red tape and speed up investment licensing, something frequently demanded by investors. Amdal documents are currently issued by the Jakarta Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD) about 75 days after application, while under the new arrangement environmental clearance may take only 15 days.

It is not the transfer of authority from the BPLHD to the one-stop service agency that matters, because in fact the BPLHD will be represented in the new agency. The biggest concern will be possible breaches of the Environment Protection and Management Law, which stipulates that an Amdal is mandatory for any activity that affects the environment, and its analysis must be conducted thoroughly and carefully.

A Guest Editorial