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Preparation for Oil and Gas production: Sierra Leone gets scooping report on potential hydrocarbon

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

The Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone (EPA-SL) in collaboration with the Petroleum Directorate has launched the scoping report on the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of potential hydrocarbon on oil and gas development in Sierra Leone. The launching ceremony which took place on the 13th March 2012 at the British Council Hall in Freetown was done by His Excellency the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma in the presence of the key environmental stakeholders in the country and the sub-region.

 

President Ernest Bai Koroma and the members of the high table during the launching ceremony

The scoping report provides an introduction to the subject of potential oil and gas development in Sierra Leone and sets the scene for the process of strategic environmental assessment which is being undertaken over the period from November 2011 to May 2012. The primary function of the scoping report is to help to identify issues that will need to be researched in subsequent stages of the Strategic Environmental Assessment. The SEA of potential hydrocarbon development has been established in order to provide government the industry, concerned stakeholders and the public at large with a clear understanding of what the implications of these discoveries of oil and gas might be for Sierra Leone and to set out advice on the development and regulation of the oil and gas industry to ensure that any development of oil and gas will be undertaken to support the national wellbeing and long term economic prosperity of Sierra Leone in providing benefits for the nation and responsible investors.

The Chairman of the launching ceremony for the report and also the Chief of staff, Dr. Kaifala Marrah said Sierra Leone’s environment has been destroyed during the colonial era when diamonds were first found on the country’s soil but noted that as oil and gas been discovered in the country, ‘we should not sit again and allow more of the environment to be destroyed without taking the necessary steps’. The Chief of Staff thanked the efforts of the President and the management and staff of the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone towards championing environmental issues in the country. He said that for environmental challenges to be met and overcome, collaboration with key stakeholders needs to be applied and practiced

The President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma said the country is on the verge of producing oil and gas and ‘we should not sit by without policies to enhance on the management of the oil and gas sector and the environment in general’. The president noted that because of uncontrolled and non conservation practices, Sierra Leone had loosed up to 95% of its forests in the country. He promised that the government of Sierra Leone will go the extra mile to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated towards caring for the environments.

This coastal Ariel view was shot by Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya in November 2011 with the support of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Sierra Leone

Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma who is normally seen as a good model towards keeping the environment safe in Sierra Leone said that his presence of attending the launch of the scoping report on potential hydrocarbons on oil and gas shows that he puts great premium on the environment. He said the primary reason for taking Strategic Environmental Assessment for the oil and gas in the country is to ensure the benefits of the oil and gas sector are achievable. He revealed that process of the oil and gas in the country will be co-chaired by the EPA-SL, the Petroleum Directorate and the Office of the Chief of Staff.

The vibrant Executive Chairperson for the Environment Protection Agency of sierra Leone, Madam Haddijatou Jallow on behalf of the board and management of her Agency extended a warmed welcome to the President for honouring the occasion of the launching of the SEA scoping report. She adds ‘your presence shows your keen interest on this critical issue and your commitment towards the building of a better and a more sustainable Sierra Leone especially for generations to come’.

Madam Jallow stated that the launching of the report follows the recommendation from the hugely successful conference on the transformation and development of Sierra Leone where the people of the country were consistent and clear in their demand for better management of the country’s natural resources. She adds that the launching of the SEA on potential oil and gas development is coming on the eve of the Rio+20 conference where the world will meet nearly 20 years after the earth summit of 1992.

Madam Jallow said ‘a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is more imperative now than ever before’ adding that greenhouse gasses emissions are rising , agriculture land is under pressure and the soil on which food defends is being degraded; marine resources are threatened and air pollution is causing millions of premature deaths across the world.

The EPA-SL Executive Chair said Sierra Leone’s economic foundation lies in oceans, forests and soils which hold a wealth of consumable fish, trees and minerals and provide the raw materials for tourism and other non-consumable uses. She added that Strategic Environmental Assessment is a process for sustainable development that helps decision makers to determine appropriate policies and set standards to ensure that industry uses the most modern, most appropriate technologies for maximise efficiency and safely it brings together all the users to build a consensus between civil society and government sectors on how to share and maintain the quality of the sea, the air and the land. ‘SEA provides transparency and participation to assure that the concerns and perspectives of citizens, industry and government are well integrated’ Madam Jallow said.

the proactive Executive Chairperson maintained that undertaking Strategic Environmental Assessment represents a proactive approach to finding the best way to integrate environmental concerns in the hydrocarbon sector if the reservoirs found off the coasts prove to be commercially viable in other to avoid the pitfalls that are so often associated with the oil and gas sector. ‘Our natural recourses and biodiversity are a priceless heritage which we cannot afford to lose. There will be no healthy economic future, if e do not manage to find ways for better integrating environmental and economic interest’ she said.

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