We have constantly been harping on the severity of deforestation in the country, and always advocate for the concerned authorities to put the situation under check. However, it appears that people are not heeding to the call of the environmentalists. With the excessive heat and unusual rainfall pattern teaching us lessons about our anti-environmental activities, it is rather disappointing that logging is still very much on in the country.
The recent move by the Department of Forestry to regularise the trade by identifying entry points for timber exported into the country from neighbouring Senegal is a good step, but further action is needed to bring the entire trade under control. Our concern is that The Gambia lies in the Sahelian belt, yet it is not unusual for trucks to be seen carrying a great quantity of logs along our streets and highways.
It is important for those involved in such a business to overlook profit and consider the repercussions of deforestation on the society. Forests have a huge impact on the environment. They contribute in regulating temperature, and the distribution of rainfall. The trees help in balancing the oxygen-carbon dioxide concentration by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen and also impeding the velocity of run-off on the soil surface, thwarting soil erosion and landslides, thereby reducing possibilities of flooding.
The leaves that fall on the forest ground act as nutrient sources that increase soil fertility. In addition, the forests offer shelter against adverse environmental conditions and for diverse forms of wildlife. Those who are in the logging trade must recognise these facts in their struggle to maximise the business. Indiscriminate felling of trees is detrimental to sustainable development.
The reality is that many species of plants and animals are already extinct. Others are also fading away due to the loss of habitat. There is also the loss of essential medicinal herbs. Other major impacts include soil erosion, flooding, and desertification. Furthermore and very importantly, the degradation of the forest results to a decrease in the amount of rainfall we receive. Rainfall is the only way of replenishing our natural water resources, and trees determine the rainfall in a particular region.
If they no longer exist, drought sets in, bringing with it its own set of problems. The current food crisis should be a food for thought. Much more, we should pay greater attention to this reality as our country is agriculture-dependent and lies in the Sahel region. The rules and regulations governing felling of trees in the forest and those within our environment should therefore be more stringent. We cannot afford to be victims in the hands of a few who hanker for their selfish interest at the expense of others.
The Forestry Department and all other stakeholders in the environment should acknowledge these facts and take active steps to ensure that those who are legally accredited to be engaged in the timber trade do so with caution and those who are illegally felling the trees just for their individual selfish interest are apprehended and brought to justice.In as much as we struggle for development, we owe a great debt to our environment.