Vice President Sumana dissapointed over situation of the Western area Peninsular ForestApril 18, 2012
By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya Environmental
Issues and concerns are fast attracting global attention these days, the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment in Sierra Leone under the leadership of Alieu Pat Sowe is increasingly proving to the country’s environmentalists that things may head the wrong way if not handled with caution. The German Welthungerhilfe and European Union have pumped in a Three Million Euro for the conservation and preservation of the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve, which; unfortunately is now facing massive deforestation and extinction due to several factors including man-made.
The Vice President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Samuel Sumana during a visit to these locations lamented over the massive encroachment taking place in the Peninsular Forest under the watchful eyes of the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment. At an emergency meeting at the Vice President Office few days back, attended by the Minister of Lands, Ministry of Forestry and their Directors, the Sierra Leone Police represented by CSP Suluku Conteh, Heads of the WAPFOR Project, ENFORAC and the Sierra Leone Environmental Journalists Association. Issues discussed were related to forest conservation and key among them was the unanimous adoption to curtail the massive encroachment, which is ongoing in the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve at Sugar Loaf; few meters from the Babadori Reservoir. It was discussed and agreed that Police Officers should be deployed at every location in the Peninsular Forest.
The Vice President, who was the first person to erect a pillar and planted a tree at the Forest Reserve during the demarcation exercise in 2011, took what could have been a firm and stern decision towards encroachers by stating that “all makeshifts structures at the Peninsular Forest in Sugar Loaf must be destroyed with immediate effects”. This decision may not have gone down well with officials of the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment whom, it is alleged may have apportioned forest reserve areas within the Peninsular Forest and at Sugar Loaf to certain people and land grabbers are also reportedly taking undue advantage of the situation especially at this time when politics is very close. As a result, the order from the Vice President is now suffering from implementation for fear that the outcome would be politically devastating to the ruling government . May be he had apportioned the forest reserve to his cohorts Many well informed environmentalists in the country and out of Sierra Leone may be insinuating that the Minister of Lands have reasons best known to him as to why his ministry is refusing to implement the order of the Vice President to demolish all makeshifts structures within the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve.
One may suggest that all parcels of land situate and lying around the Babadori Reservoir may have been sold or assigned to politicians. Probably, the Minister is not well grounded in rules and regulations governing forest reserves and the environment. What must be made clear is that there are forest regulations which the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security must implement in other to be able to protect the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve. These laws prohibit any person from entering into reserved area and carry out activities that will hinder its progress. With this regulation in place the Minister of Lands Country Planning and the Environment should be the first gentle man to ensure that the environment is protected and the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve is preserved for the benefits of all Sierra Leoneans and generations unborn. Sometime last year, sea weeds were discovered in large quantity on the beaches of Sierra Leone.
Some environmental activists have opined that the Ministry of Lands as far as the Western Area Peninsular Forest is concern is an encroacher of the Forest Reserve. Environmental Right groups such as WAPFOR, SLEJA have called on all stakeholders to ensure that the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve regained its once proud status. The Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone has suggested for the establishment of an Environmental Court and the establishment of Environmental Law Department at the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone. This department, at the EPA-SL if established should be at the forefront in prosecuting defaulters caught violating established environmental laws and regulations in the country.
The European Union and the German Welthungerhilfe has spent over three Million Euros through a five- year project to help conserve and protect the Peninsular Forest, which should be supported by the various communities and government officials, including officials of the Ministry of Lands. The Director of Forestry, Mr. Sheku Mansaray and head of the WAPFOR project, Jochen Moninger have put together a budget proposal as requested by the Vice President. The plan will be implemented for the fencing of the Sugar Loaf Reserve. Proposal for the fencing was initiated by Madam Jallow of the EPA-SL and supported by the Vice President and his team. It is expected that the venture will yield positive dividend with the corporation of the Ministry of Lands country Planning and the Environment.
It would be recalled that the President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has placed so much premium on environmental issues and has ensured that the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone is under his direct supervision and control. Environmental issues have also formed part of the Government of Sierra Leone National Agenda for Change. It is rumored that the European Union may not consider funding another five- year project for the conservation of the Sierra Leone Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve if the government of Sierra Leone is refusing to take stern and positive action against encroachers of the Peninsular Forest