By Landing Ceesay
Some Gambian environmentalists disapproved the “sale” of ‘Old-Cycle-Track’, a tourist attraction site in Senegambia and proposed to protest on Wednesday.
The Old Cycle Track is located just behind the Palma Rima Beach, annually attracts many tourists because of its wildlife attraction.
This development came a few days after; Kerr Fatou visited the place, following a tipoff that the site had been sold to a Chinese National.
When contacted for comments, the Director General of Tourism Board [GT Board] Abubacarr Camara has said that the place is not sold to a Chinese National; but it is legally allocated to a Malaysian company with proper documentation.
He said the place would house two hotels, a park and a shopping mall, the company intends to construct at the site. However, the GT Board Director General was quick to say that the tourist attraction site was allocated to the Malaysian company before his appointment as Director General.
Following Kerr Fatou’s broadcast of the development, a group referred to as ‘The Gambia Environmental Task Force and All Forestry Platform’ met to discuss a way forward to stop the buyer from erecting any structures on the site.
“The ‘Old-cycle-track’ is an introduction not only to the Gambia but to the birds in Africa. Because it is not far away from the hotel areas. You can find up to 150 species of birds in a small area. The Gambia is a very small country but when it comes to birds’ life, The Gambia is the biggest country in the world, because the Gambia has about 560 species of birds in this small country. If you go to the Old-cycle-track, the number of kingfishers in a short specific time is unbelievable,” Tamba Jeffang, a bird watcher and a member of ‘Gambia Environmental Task Force and All Forestry Platform’ said.
He said there should not be development, but it has to be a sustainable development.
“Now we are ready to destroy that forever, it is not a political grand style chest beating, we want to work with the government. No one says there should not be development, but it has to be a meaningful development, sustainable development because development can go side by side with nature. But in order to do that, you have to do the research, you have to let the people do this work, and come up with their findings. I am not sure that the government did due diligence. We have to move fast and put an injunction and see what development we can make with the government,” he added.
Mr Jeffang said when he went with his wife to the place in question, they saw 5 different kingfishes in just less than 20 minutes, saying where would you ever go in the world and find that is not there.
“We have hotels that need renovation. Why can’t they go and renovate them…just two years ago the Gambia’s most famous bird, the Egyptian plover, was found in the Old-cycle-track. If you want to see that kind of bird, you have to travel as far as Basse or Kaur. Because of the work that is being done at the Old-cycle-track, mangroves are allowed to regenerate and the place to regenerate itself. That is why it attracted these birds to stay there. The place is like a heaven for bird watchers,” the bird watcher and environmentalist said.
Lamin Jobarteh, also a bird watcher, said the Old-cycle-track is where they get all their earnings for living.
“This is a very important meeting, if this meeting is going to help anyone; it will help Tamba Jeffang and me [Lamin Jobarteh] most. Because our lives depend on this place. That is where we get our entire earnings. We used to go to the bush with tourists to show them birds. But since we found this place, life has become easy for us. When tourists come to the Gambia, the first place they think of is the Old-cycle-track. If they are impressed with the types of birds there, they ask us to take them to the bush for them to see more birds. When we are done, that’s the time they pay us. This is how we get our earnings,” Jobarteh explained.
Meanwhile, Momodou Lamin Jobarteh, the Chief for the district of Bintang said the only problem hindering their fight against environmental destruction is that their members do not want to take responsibility.
“What is disturbing us in our fight against environmental destruction is that everyone will be talking but when the time comes for action, you will not see anyone; because no one wants to take the responsibility. That is really disturbing us. If you know that you are on the right path, do not be afraid of anything.
“We are doing this fight for the benefit of the future. We are all seeing how our environments are being destroyed. That is very sad. They are now destroying our forests especially, the real estate developers. What are we going to leave behind for our children, if we allow people to destroy our environments? So this protest on Wednesday will not happen in my absence, I will be there Insha Allah,” Jobarteh expressed.
The proposed protest by the group against the sale of the Old-cycle-track is slated for the 8th of September 2021 at the Old-cycle-track behind the Palma Rima Beach.