By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya
The problems of a computerized data base in the country for government Agencies will soon be over through technical support from the Geographical Information Systems. Two American technical experts from the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at the Columbia University in New York are at present conducting needs assessment on the current Geographic Information Systems capabilities and future needs of the Government of Sierra Leone through the Environment Protection Agency as well as outlining methodologies for establishing a robust GIS system and spatial data infrastructure for the Agency.
The two experts; Mr. Mark Becker, an Associate Director and Alex Fisher, Program Manager and Research Associate for CIESIN were yesterday at the Youyi Building where they made presentation on important planning and development tools that professionals in their various institutions and departments can use to help policy makers to make informed decisions in the management of the country’s natural resources and risk assessment on the vulnerability of the ecosystems and socio-economic sectors through climate change modeling.
The presentations were done in the presence of representatives from government ministries and departments. In her brief statement, the Executive Chair of the EPA-SL, Madam Jatou Jallow said “as the Agency responsible to ensure effective coordination and routine monitoring of all programmes and projects with potential negative impacts on the environment and to collect and make available environmental data and information to the public or interested persons or bodies, the mission of the CIESIN staff to the Agency will be of great help to develop various monitoring platforms and data acquisition and management capacity. It will also be relevant in the building of library of spatial data on the Country for monitoring and use for the public”.
Madam Jallow also noted that the initiative would also help the Agency acquire climate and health related data required for the assessment of the vulnerability of agriculture, forestry, water, fisheries and other sectors that will impact climate change through modeling and development of climate change scenarios to further address its challenges to the people. She also informed her audience that by next year, her agency will ensure that it has a data base of all environmental issues in the country and promised that environmental issues are public issues which will be available for all to act upon. If all is well as planned, the GIS for Sierra Leone will show the population at risk in coastal areas, the multiple environmental variables with population and how risk change with climate change. Explaining further on the data needs for Sierra Leone, the CIESIN team in their presentation noted that it will be used for monitoring natural development strategies; map out climate monitoring and forecasting as well as help to highlight other key important roles in the country.
The United Nations Development Programme and the European Union are the funders for the setting up of a GIS Unit at the EPA-SL as well as buying of GIS equipments. The expert’s service to Sierra Leone is borne free of charge to the government of Sierra Leone.