The National Environmental Management Act

THE CORNER STONE OF ENVIRONMENTAL LECISLATION IN THE GAMBIA The Gambia's essential natural resources, namely cropland, flora and fauna, forests, fresh and sea water, and our beaches have been utilised without adequate regard to sound environmental management. These valuable natural resources have therefore been degraded in many parts of the country with alarming signs of complete depletion in some areas. Shortage of grazing and cultivable land has reached serious proportions in the country due to population pressure and recurrent droughts.

A growing awareness of these negative trends prompted the Government of The Gambia to adopt comprehensive legislation designed to ensure a healthy environment, improve the quality of life for all persons living in The Gambia, and conserve and promote the rational use of the natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

The National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) was first passed in 1987 and then an1ended in 1994. NEMA supersedes all other acts in The Gambia on environmental matters and creates the legal framework for the operations of the National. Environment Agency (NEA). It provides direction to maintain a decent environment and to encourage the general public to help achieve this goal. NEMA gives every person the duty to maintain a decent environment and the duty to inform the NEA of activities that are likely to damage the environment. When the NEA is informed of violations, necessary measures are put in place to counteract them. NEMA also makes provisions so every Gambian has the right, through the Attorney General's Chamber, to take legal action to protect the environment.

INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK CREATED BY NEMA NEMA provides for the establishment of the National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) also referred to as the "Council", a ministerial-level body on which all ministries with responsibilities relating to environmental issues are represented. The Council, chaired by the Head of State, is charged with ensuring and promoting multi­sectoral integration of environmental issues into the fabric of national planning and development. Mandated to supervise the implementation of the GEAP, The Council also encourages active participation by all segments of society and seeks to develop a multi-sectoral and communal sense of ownership of the environment.The Act also created the National Environment Agency (NEA), which serve as the Secretariat of the Council and from which it receives policy guidance. NEA is the principal body responsible for the management of the environment and coordinates all environment-related activities of the Government.

The Technical Advisory Committee (T AC) was created by NEMA to serve as a scientific and technical advisory body. With membership drawn from leading technical and management experts in environmentally related fields, the TAC represents a forum where pressing and complex environmental matters are debated by qualified experts.Where a matter requires a specialised technical consideration, Technical Working Groups may be established. Recognising the need for a decentralised approach, Local Environment Committees are also established in the Banjul and Kanifing Municipal Areas.Ward Environment Committees are present in each ward, and Area Environment Committees provide for participation at the provincial level.

The Area Environment Committees are composed of village elders, NGOs, community based organizations (CBOs), local government authorities, women's groups, youth groups and extension workers.

ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING, STANDARDS AND QUALITY In addition to establishing the administrative structure for environmental management, NEMA provides the candling framework for improved environmental planning, standards and quality control. Environmental planning, both short and long-term, is coordinated primarily through the Gambia Environmental Action Plan (GEAP) at the national level, and Local Environmental Action Plans (LEAPs) at the municipal and administrative divisions.

Key aspects of environmental planning are environmental impact assessment, monitoring and audits. Through these tools, environmental problems (can be avoided and when problems occur, remedial measures are already in place.) Environmental standards are essential so that environmental quality can be monitored. (Pesticide use, air, water, and soil quality are just a few of the important aspects of the environment to be measured. NEMA also outlines enforcement mechanisms, sound management of the coastal and inland resources, and builds on the concept of providing incentives for good environmental behaviour and disincentives for bad environmental behaviour.