The Gambia Government through its department of National Environment Agency (NEA) has on Tuesday 11th February 2014 launched US$9 Million environment project to combat Climate Change at the Kairaba Beach Hotel. The 4 year project aims to enhance and support the Kombo Coastal communities particularly those within the Tourists Development Area make the best use of their lands for economic growth.
In her opening remarks at the launching ceremony, Madam Mamondane Lekoetje-a UN envoy underpins that “Climate change is a reality. It is happening and will continue to happen. As a result, it poses as a development challenge for developing countries like The Gambia”. She cited examples from the recent climate related flash floods of 2007, crops failure of 2011 and virus outbreaks such as Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) in 2013 amongst others lately experienced in the Gambia. “All these coupled with the alarming rate of level and degree of the coastal erosion seriously threatens our development infrastructure as a nation and the livelihood of communities whose subsistence entirely depend on these areas” added Madam Lekoetje.
According to the UN envoy, from the perspective of UNDP, this project could not have come at a better time given its direct relevance to the MDG-based PAGE (2012 – 2015), UNDAF, CPAP (2012 – 2016), and UNDP’s new strategic Plan (2014 – 2017). In conclusion, she noted “Looking at the calibre of people seated here today, I have no doubt in mind that relevant and evidence based decisions will be taken within the framework of the project to contribute towards addressing The Gambia’s vulnerability to climate change; improving coastal defences and enhancing adaptive capacities of coastal communities among others, as key ingredients of the project intervention”.
Another UN representative also gracing the ceremony reiterated UNDP’s readiness to compliments the government’s effort in addressing its environmental challenges. As the Gambia Government endeavours to incorporate its environmental tasks from mainstream consideration into national development and planning process, Ms Morata commended attendees, “Without your support, dedication, and commitment, this project would not have seen the light of day. The implementation of this project which we are launching today has been made possible by the joint efforts and commitment of all stakeholders, not forgetting the role played by the NEA and the UNDP Country Office Team”.
Mr Modou Suwareh, Director of Inter-Sectorial Networks at the NEA, doubled for his boss Ndey Sireh Bakurin-Director of NEA. Speaking on behalf of his department, Mr Suwareh explained: “Our objectives for this project are to reduce Gambia’s vulnerability to sea level rise and its associated impacts of climate change and improving coastal defences and enhancing adaptive capacities of coastal communities. The Gambia is highly vulnerable to any rise in sea level because of it low lying coastal areas, this project therefore is anticipated to address, Policy and institutional development for climate risk management in coastal zones, Physical investment in coastal protection against climate risk and strengthening livelihood of coastal communities at risk from climate change”.
Gambia’s Minister of Forestry and Environment, Fatou Ndey Gaye, was among the dignitaries marking the launching. It is well known that the global climate is changing at an unprecedented rate. One of the main causes attributed to this anthropogenic change is increased greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. “This phenomenon”, Minister Gaye narrated,” has led to a global movement that has with time provided a better insight on how to design and implement adequate strategies as well as raise awareness on the colossal challenges we face to mitigate this change”. The African continent has been identified by the experts as one of the most vulnerable continents with regards to climate effects. These effects as predicted will be amplified by the lack of adequate finances and technical knowledge to actively adapt to the changing environment. In most cases, governments are often forced to repeatedly commit limited resources for interventions aimed at decreasing the vulnerability of communities as well as mitigating the effects of some of these impacts. She admitted that “The Gambia is one of the most vulnerable countries in Africa in relation to climate change. It faces a range of problems associated with flooding from sea level rise, drainage congestion and torrential rains during the rainy reason. Changes in climatic patterns are also expected to further constraint productivity of some crops as well as forest regeneration”.
According to Madam Gaye, the risk of climate change related damages to human and economic development in coastal areas of The Gambia are on a rise. The compounded effects of sea level rise and changes in river discharge, erosion of coastal embankments and changes to natural sediment dynamics pose a serious threat to the neutral resource base and livelihood opportunities of coastal communities including tourism.
The Gambia’s coastal zone in particular is very vulnerable and given the lack of institutional capacity to systematically identify and address climate driven changes in risk patterns, the government of the Gambia is proposing a project to reduce the vulnerability of coastal communities to climate change-induced risks. The project would therefore be based on the following components: policy and institutional development for climate risk management in coastal zones, physical investments in coastal protection against climate` change risk and strengthening livelihood of coastal communities at risk from climate change. The goal of this project is to enhance resilience of vulnerable coastal areas communities to climate change in The Gambia. The objectives are to reduce our vulnerability to sea level rise and associated impacts of climate capacities of coastal communities.
The government of The Gambia recognizes the threats posed by climate change and is committed to addressing these challenges. This commitment has been demonstrated by mainstreaming climate change in its development blue prints, coupled with the numerous interventions undertaken by government, to address the effects of climate change. The government has also developed its Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) and the National Adaption Plan (NAP) which are being implemented.
It would be recalled in 2004 African Development Bank funded 20 million dollar sea erosion project for Gambia to combat against coastal erosion from Banjul to Senegambia the country main tourism Development Area