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Environment is one of President Obama's priorities - Ambassador White

Apr 18, 2011, 1:05 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

Pamela Ann White, Ambassador of the United States in Banjul, has said that one of President Barrack Obama's priorities is environmental issues, noting that this was what motivated the US Embassy in Banjul to create a Green Committee.

Ambassador White, who was speaking on Friday during a cleaning exercise at the Tanji Bird Sanctuary by the US embassy staff in partnership with the Ministry of Forestry and Environment and US Peace Corps volunteers, said the exercise was part of the embassy's drive to make The Gambia more beautiful by cleaning the environment. Environmental protection is of paramount importance, she added.

The exercise, which brought together staff from the US embassy and Ministry of Forestry and Environment, the National Environment Agency, students from Tanji and its surroundings, coincided with the US embassy's observation of World Earth Day, which is celebrated every 22nd April.

Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22nd 1970 and the date is considered the birth of the modern environment movement. The founder was Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the effects of a massive oil spill on the coast of California.

Also addressing the gathering, prior to the cleansing exercise, was Michael Fitzpatrick, the consular officer and head of the US Embassy’s Green Team, who said an estimated 20 million people gathered on 22nd April 1970 during the first Earth Day celebration and demonstrated for a healthy and sustainable environment.

"Unlike most protest of that time, the Earth Day protest attracted support from Democrats and Republicans, rich and poor, old and young," he added.

According to him, the US embassy established a Green Committee about six months ago to spearhead their efforts to be more environmentally-friendly.

"Since then, we have been collecting newspapers, office papers and magazines and delivering twice a month to an NGO named the paper recycling project," he said, noting that this paper is then turned in fuel bricks to be sold to local restaurants and bakeries.

US Peace Corps Country Director Jeffrey Cornish said waste management is one of the programmes Peace Corps are engaged in.

Saikou Njie, a Peace Corp environmental expert said waste management has a close link with the development of the Gambia.

"The destruction caused by waste to the environment and to public health starts after we throw waste," he added.

Alhagie Saidykhan, National Environment Agency (NEA) Inspector, who spoke on behalf of the Gambia Government, announced that the government has come up with anti-littering regulations, which punish offenders for illegal waste dumping, among others.