The joint session of the Public Accounts and Enterprises Committees PAC/PEC of the National Assembly last week adopted the activity reports and audited financial statements of the National Environment Agency (NEA) after deferring the Executive Director of the institution for two consecutive times.
"The Agency was formally established under the National Environment Management Act (NEMA, 1994) as a semi-autonomous agency with an independent structure under the Office of the President", said Mr. Momodou B. Sarr, the NEA Executive Director, when presenting the report.
The NEA head told the joint parliamentary committee that the agency is responsible for the overall coordination of environmental management in the country. He said it is empowered to instruct any public officer to take measures to prevent or discontinue any act of deleterious effect to the environment.
He further said that the Agency may petition the Attorney General, requesting him to bring a public interest action if any person defies the instruction.
"The most serious concern now is the possibility of untreated sewage from the Kotu Sedimentation Ponds discharged in the Kotu Stream ending up in the sea. The tourism industry would suffer a devastating blow should any tourist bathing in the sea catch a fatal illness from the untreated sewage from Kotu Sedimentation Ponds", he disclosed.
Mr. Sarr said many dealers of pesticides in the country lack any formal education, and therefore not conscious of the enormous health risks of improper handling and usage of pesticides.
He said there have been several reported incidents of female gardeners within the Greater Banjul Area treating their vegetables against pests with strong pesticides, but only to harvest these vegetables for the market the following day instead of waiting for a few weeks for the toxicity of the pesticides to wane as required by the manufacturers.
The NEA director informed the Committee that it has also been reported that surplus groundnut seeds meant for sowing, treated with very strong pesticides, have ended up in the local market for direct human consumption. He warned that consumption of such heavily pesticide-treated seeds would have direct carcinogenic effects on humans.
He added that the negative impacts of climate change are being felt in all sectors and with the coastal zone, the country has been experiencing accelerating annual rates of erosion ranging from two metres to four metres since the late 1980s.
"As the sea level continues to rise as a result of climate change, the visual impressions of coastal erosion with the entire coastal strip will become more pronounced. Another effect of sea level rise is the salt intrusion of productive agricultural lands", the NEA head stated.
However, he has revealed that the Agency would soon be implementing a Coastal Area Management (CAM) project valued at nearly US$10M. He said the project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), under its LDC Fund, with co-financing from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Gambia government.
The representative of the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA) revealed that the agency was found to be non-compliant with the Public Procurement Act, its regulations and instructions during the period under review.
Meanwhile, many NAMs and subject matter specialists made several observations and recommendations.
Subsequently, the report was finally adopted after being rejected twice by the committees.