Environment & Climate ChangeNews

Gabon Govt Condemned For Indifference Over Mass Destruction Of Mangroves

Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) involved in the fight for the preservation of the ecosystems have strongly condemned the indifference of the Gabonese Ministry of Forestry and Water over the destruction of a large area of mangroves within the Cape Esterias situated in the botanical collection (arboretum) of Raponda Walter near the Akanda Park.

The said mangroves, which are of great importance to the ecosystem, serve as a natural barrier as well as a zone for the reproduction of fishes.

The Idolo mangrove, a village situated within the Akanda council in the north of Libreville the capital, has been completely destroyed and it is thanks to the displeased villagers who filmed that destruction and posted on social media that the environmental NGOs were alerted to the calamity.

“This destruction of the mangrove is happening in the Cape Esterias, about 20 kilometres from Libreville within the Raponda Walker arboretum not far from the Akanda Park. 

“Why has the Ministry of Forestry and Water allowed this to happen to this extent of destruction?”, Marc Ona Essangui of the Brainforest NGO asks angrily.

The Brainforest official accused housing agencies, which intend to install touristic sites inside the mangroves, of being responsible for the mass destruction.

“This type of housing speculation threatens the mangroves which play an important role in the ecosystem”, declares Marc Ona, adding that the Cape Esterias “constitutes a sort of natural barrier against marine aggression”.

The zone that has been destroyed has the status of a “buffer zone” where persons can only construct on special permission but on condition the structures are not permanent.

“In Gabon, Article 64 of the Environmental Code promulgated in 2014 prohibits construction near natural spaces in the sensible coastline or near the banks”, Mr Ona reminded the government and general public.

Following the alarm raised by the NGOs, the Ministry of Forestry and Water dispatched a team to the destroyed area. 

According to the Director General of Environment and Nature Protection, there is litigation already going on relating to the massive destruction of the mangrove in the Akanda Council.

“However, it has been realized on the ground that in spite of the first arrests, notably of those responsible for the work going on in the area, and even after they have been told to stop the work, the work has instead intensified with the destruction of a surface area which is being evaluated”, the Director General revealed.

He declared that an important quantity of mangrove has been freshly destroyed on “a zone which is supposed to be totally prohibited from all work even including the granting of land titles in conformity with Article 64 of the Environmental Code.”

He added that the “owners” of the said land have been summoned by the ministry to give account of their behaviour. 

These persons are those who own land within the buffer zone and wanted to get access to the sea by destroying the mangrove, acts “which are not in line with the environmental exigencies in Gabon”.

The cost of the destruction has been evaluated and it has been decided that those who carried out the destruction would have to replant the trees destroyed.

“The Directorate of Environment has teams on the ground but did not stop the destruction. They should have stopped work from the first sound of the engine saws”, declares Marc Ona angrily. 

According to him, the village of Idolo is but a small part of the problem of the destruction of mangroves particularly in Cape Esterias.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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