Ask a stranger on the streets of London, Berlin or Stockholm what they know about The Gambia – Sunshine, Holidays, Nice people, are some of the answers one is likely to be confronted with. From New York, Amsterdam & around the world, The Gambia is best known for all-year round sunshine & beautiful holiday resorts filled with tourists taking in delights the country offers.
However, a major question of our time side-tracked from public debate & discourse is the issue of global warming and the threat of rising sea levels on our shores endangering livelihoods, tourism and agricultural productivity. We should not shy away from the fact that the environmental catastrophe being felt on our coast is largely man made due to decades of irresponsible executive policies which the article shall explore.
The coalition government came to prominence chanting slogans of change promising to tackle problems across the development spectrum. With NAWEC reduced redundant, there appears to be a gaping hole in terms of meeting the country’s energy needs, further stifling progress. Despite those setbacks, the Gambia is well-positioned to be the first country in the world to attain not just energy independence, but entirely sourced from renewables. To achieve this requires visionary leadership, competence and professionalism. But it also requires good policies, commitment with investment to match.
As such the country has the potential to be 100% powered from solar, wind, and other non-polluting sources in the years ahead. In Europe, Germany has done away with nuclear-power plants investing heavily in the renewable sector. Senegal, today, boasts the largest solar-power plant in West Africa with a €500 million mega-project under construction. In the United States, California is leading the charge towards the renewables with other states along the West-Coast following suit.
The Netherlands is investing heavily in Wind-power too, so are the Scandinavian countries all moving away from petrol, diesel & coal. Even the biggest country on earth, China, has recognised the trend being the largest manufacturer of solar-panels in view of the Paris Climate Accord (2015).
On the environmental front, the administration needs to come to terms with the fact that tourists are expressing concern about the poor state of the beach, reduced to the confines of hotel swimming pools. Just have a peek at Spain, or Morocco, or Sharm El-sheikh tourist hotspot in Egypt see the serene sandy beaches and pristine clear blue waters. The Gambia Tourism Board is failing that industry for not speaking up against sand mining.
Environmental groups in the country need to put more pressure on government & for parliament to analyse the overall picture therein. As things stand, Banjul is facing rising tides, Bakau & Fajara on a downward spiral, so is Kololi, Brufut, and Gunjur along that coastline stretch to Kartong. It does make one wonder why man is so selfish – hence as long as the honourable minister is housed in a multimillion mansion, to hell the rest.
Let us open our eyes to the sufferings of the poor fisherman in Tanji, the complaints of the community of Gunjur, and seek to leave a decent environment for future generations. Lining your pockets is not what we voted you in office for. Change, for a new Gambia was the contractual agreement @ the ballot box!
Earlier this year – Erin Energy has confirmed offshore Gambia has good prospects characterized by proven petroleum systems. If properly handled and managed, the Gambia’s petroleum sector could contribute to the country’s sustainable development efforts. The Gambia though cannot continue to burn its way to prosperity through petrol and coal. The administration must try to meet its obligation toward mitigating effects of highly polluting fossil fuels and hazardous petrol to globally accepted standards. To achieve this, it need to come up with a clear-cut energy policy setting up targets and when it expects to fulfil them.
This include institutional liaison, but also partnership with renewable energy suppliers through monitoring & evaluation. The more reason for weekly cabinet meetings. In this Century, any government or country that prioritises renewable energy and succeed shall win the future. As drought continues to plague large-swats of sub-Saharan Africa putting halt to farming activities, we demand leadership on the issue.
I urge the public to take ownership of the environment, and to be protectors of the rain-forest against illegal logging. The Forestry department under its line Ministry and the entire local-government structure need proper sensitization & to mobilize on this major debate of our time.
The administration’s short-term priority should be ensuring near-parity between heavy-fuel usage & renewables. In my view, a legislation ‘Housing Act Reform’ whereby as of 2018, all real-estate and new-builds in the country must be fitted with solar panels. From streetlights, Industrial Warehouse, Hospitals and schools must be transformed as such in an unprecedented architectural transformation in city & country planning.
To complement government effort, Muhammad Jah’s Q-Group should come forward provide free WiFi internet access in all schools, hospitals and universities across the country. As with china, Gambian companies should sacrifice short-term profits sign up to the vision that when the country succeeds, everyone succeed too.
Decades from now when historians look back on his tenure, let it be said it was the Barrow-government that laid the multi-faceted groundwork & investment successes at hand. For a country of barely two million, there is no reason why the Gambia should not be powered 100% from renewable energy sources. With UN and Commonwealth partnership and funding topped up by China, and EU financial gestures – excuses will not be accepted.
May I appeal to the concerned Ministry to conduct quarterly Press Conferences update the country on the drive towards renewable energy status. In similar vein, I call on all Gambians to hold the Energy Minister tied to this vision of a nation of lights – for cleaner, healthy people & environment, thus a prosperous state.
By Gibril Saine