Sunday, November 29, 2015

The devastating effects of sand and heavy metal mining on the welfare of local communities

The environment is inextricably linked to the economy, and thus the welfare of rural populations everywhere - and The Gambia is no exception.  In fact, in a least developed economy such as ours, the consequences can be devastating and, in many cases, irreversible.  Recent protests in the village of Kartong against the environmental degradation caused by indiscriminate mining practices, threatening to  render Kartong and satellite villages inhabitable have attracted attention to a problem that has been over a decade in the making.

Traditional land use has been radically altered, limiting and, in many cases, denying access to villagers to agricultural land as a result of mining activities.  The women of Kartong are particularly hard hit because they have lost land that once was used for vegetable gardening - a primary source of income for the women of the communities in the Kombos.  Vegetables produced in these gardens were sold to tourist hotels and in open air markets in the area.   A reduced level of income earned from gardening will inevitably contribute to an increase in the incidence of rural poverty.

The destruction is not limited to the economic livelihood of area residents.  The physical impact of the inappropriate land use policies of the regime of Yaya Jammeh is beginning to affect the contour of the land around the village and thus disturbing the natural habitat of wildlife.  There are reports of crocodiles being displaced from their natural habitat and, at least a child falling into an open mining pit leading to his death.

As a result of recently held protest matches by village residents, thirty-three youths from the area have been arrested and subsequently denied bail.  Reports suggest that they are being held in the maximum security wing of the notorious Mile II prisons, together with convicted murderers, rapists and hardened criminals.

Mining is being done exclusively by the Gambian dictator with little or no financial returns to the community.  Instead, he has engaged the services of an Area Councillor in the name of  Lamin Jamba Jammeh as part of his management team of his company (KGI) who is also representing Kartong in the Area Council.