VP launches oil spill contingency plan for Gambia
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Her Excellency, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, vice president and secretary of state for Women's Affairs, who is also the chairperson of the Disaster Management Governing Council, yesterday launched the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan for The Gambia, at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.
In her address, Vice President Njie-Saidy expressed delight to be associated with the launching of "this important project." She thanked the International Petroleum Industry Environment Conservation Association (IPECA) and the National Disaster Management Agency under her office for organising the workshop.
VP Njie-Saidy also highlighted the efforts made by members of the coordinating committee, drawn from institutions such as The Gambia Ports Authority (GPA), The Gambia Navy, Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), etc, which have critical roles to play on matters of oil spill and oil contingency planning. She added that the organising committee had also invited experts from the sub-region and beyond to assist in the implementation of the oil spill contingency, which she described as a concern for development at international level.
The vice president also hailed the Gambia Government for establishing a National Aids coordination office in accordance with the Paris Declaration of Aid Effectiveness. "In the area of disaster management, the negative lessons learnt from Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami are a clear demonstration of lack of effective coordination of interventions within an established national structure. This has resulted in the United Nations and in particular the UNDP becoming increasingly interested in an integrated and coordinated disaster management approach to deal with the negative lessons of interventions highlighted above," VP Njie-Saidy noted.
According to her, The Gambia relies totally on oil (petroleum products) to fuel its economy, and oil-based products are the sole source of primary energy to produce electricity. The Gambia, she went on, is a country that has relied on tourism as a critical source of income, thus it is therefore our long term national interest to preserve our beautiful sandy beaches, mangroves, fisheries resources and the environment in general, against the threat of oil spills. She recalled that her office, over the past years, has been in charge of disaster management in The Gambia through the Disaster Management Committee which has now been transformed into a high level advisory group, chaired by the permanent secretary at the Office of the Vice President.
"Under the leadership of President Jammeh, we have worked to bring disaster management to the fore of the government's agenda and I am pleased to announce that the National Disaster Management Agency, a statutory body, has just been established by an Act of the National Assembly," Vice President Njie-Saidy revealed.
She observed that the development of an oil spill contingency plan for The Gambia cannot have come at a more opportune time, just as the National Disaster Management Agency has been established as the apex body to coordinate disaster management issues. VP Njie-Saidy further observed that the demand for oil is increasing rapidly due to strong investment in the energy and transport sectors and the current expansion of the port facilities in Banjul.
The vice president reassured the gathering of The Gambia Government's full commitment to disaster management and prevention, as well as their support to the outcome of this workshop, describing the four-day workshop as timely and relevant, and noting that The Gambia has established a comprehensive disaster management framework.
For his part, Ismaila Sambou, secretary of state for Local Government and Lands, who is also a member of the National Disaster Management Council, said disaster management should not be seen as a mere national issue but also as an important issue in international relations, "because globalisation has opened up channels for trade and movement of goods and people.
He emphasised the participatory nature of disaster management, saying that prevention is better than cure. Occupational health standards, SoS Sambou pointed out, play a vital role in the development of a modern economy. Abdourahman Bah, deputy director of GPA, delivered the vote of thanks. In attendance were secretaries of state, officials of GPA, PURA and other agencies, as well as experts from the sub-region and beyond.
Author: by Assan Sallah & Estella Sahadlow