State House and the two bans on the threat against the Environment

…can they succeed towards protecting the tress and the mangroves?

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

State House Freetown has on April 11th issued two press releases and bans on two very important environmental issues in Sierra Leone. The first press release is based on those people who are contributing to the reduction of the country’s forest cover which causes wider implications for global warming, rainfall patterns, loss of biodiversity and other environmental damage around the newly constructed Regent/Grafton Road.

According to State House, it is noted that creeping encroachment on the Sugar Loaf Mountain at Regent and the surrounding Mountain district poses a serious threat to the water catchment area and the ongoing dam and hydro project at Charlotte.

This is one of the reclaimed part of the Aberdeen Creek

This is one of the reclaimed part of the Aberdeen Creek

According to the State House press release, the “Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security will identify structures that have been constructed within forests and protected areas and take legal steps to have them removed”. In the past, this write have witnessed the scene where the current Vice President of Sierra Leone at the Office in 2012 authorised the then Lands Minister, Pate Sowe for the destruction of all makeshifts structures within and around the Peninsular at Sugar Loaf. It was done in the presence of representative from Agriculture Ministry, the recently sacked Energy Minister, the WAPFOR Project Coordinator, the police etc. The response of the Minister by then was that he should be waited until he consults with his staff at the Lands Ministry. From that time no action was taken by the Minister neither the government of Sierra Leone unless now when the situation has worsened.

From my investigations, one thing that is killing the efficiency of many government officials who are ready to work is the lack of coordinated efforts from other government officials. They won’t give you the support when they know you are geared towards working to your mandate. The Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone being an Agency with responsibilities of managing environmental issues in Sierra Leone has one time issued a public notice and banned encroachment of houses in the Regent and Grafton Road but this was frustrated by some officials of the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment by deliberately continuing to issue community people with land permit.

EPA-SL Executive Chairperson, Madam Jatou Jallow at the Aberdeen Creek advocating for its protection

EPA-SL Executive Chairperson, Madam Jatou Jallow at the Aberdeen Creek advocating for its protection

State House said “in other to maintain the greenery and aesthetic appreciation of the landscape, allocation of land and the construction of houses and structures along the new Regent and Grafton Road are banned with immediate effect”. It is not yet clear how the officials from the Ministry of Lands will appreciate this ban by State House being that there are officials who have accustomed themselves to issuing or allowing community people to constructed houses in restricted places.

The press release from State House is very welcomed but action point three of the release is what bothers and matters to many people in the society which indicates that “members of the public who are claiming ownership of landed properties along the said road should declare their interests to the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment and provide authentic title deeds…”. Many people think it is like creating loopholes to the Ministry in other to ineffectively carryout their functions because they are the ones that issued them with documentations and there is every possibilities that whoever wants to gain access there will obviously do so through the aid of the Lands Ministry.  

The other press release and ban from State house focuses on the spate of massive encroachments into the Wetlands that are home to large variety of marine life and birds and provide safe breeding grounds for many species.

According to State House, they are very concerned about the construction of houses and other structures in forest reserves and protected areas and causing the natural beauty of the land being destroyed as well as the invasion by Squatters of the Aberdeen Creek who have constructed makeshifts as well as permanent structures in the Mangrove swamps with detrimental effects on the natural environment including pollution and other risks for the Lumley and Aberdeen Communities.

This is one of the reclaimed part of the Aberdeen Creek overlooking the Mangrove

This is one of the reclaimed part of the Aberdeen Creek overlooking the Mangrove

State House release also added that “government wishes to make it clear that all wetlands are the property of Government and should be adequately protected”. In other to protect these wetlands and the Aberdeen Creek in particular, State House said “…construction of roads, embankments, houses and structures on wetlands throughout the country is banned with immediate effect”.

Although State House did not state when they are going to take concrete actions on their ban, their release says “action will be soon be taken by government to demolish illegal and unauthorised structures within the Aberdeen Creek and to stop people from destroying the environment”.

Sierra Leone became a member of the Ramsar Convention in 1996. The Ramsar Convention (formally, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat) is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands, i.e., to stem the progressive encroachment on and loss of wetlands now and in the future, recognizing the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational value. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the Convention was signed in 1971. Upon joining the Ramsar Convention, each Contracting Party is obliged by Article 2.4 to designate at least one wetland site for inclusion in the List of Wetlands of International Importance.

The Convention on Wetlands came into force for Sierra Leone on 13 April 2000. According to research, Sierra Leone presently has 1 site designated as a Wetland of International Importance threatened by vegetation, clearance for house construction and unsustainable fishing activities.

There has been many counter accusations and finger pointing towards protecting this site of international importance. According to information, the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment has not been working closely with other stakeholders as in the interest of the state towards protecting the site. They have been largely accused of issuing land and housing permits to people within the Ramsar Site thereby encouraging more people to reclaim land in the mangrove Wetlands of International Importance.

Again, the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone has been working closely with line ministries and stakeholders towards ensuring that the Ramsar site is protected and maintained to international standards but the land reclamation has intensified in this place for so long.

Madam Jatou Jallow in November 2013 called on stakeholders to work closely in other to protect the Sierra Leone wetland of international importance. During a visit to the site, he called on the Police to also work hand in deck with the EPA-SL in other to enforce the law. Together with the Board, Madam Jallow pioneered support of the Sierra Leone Police to routinely provide protection at the Aberdeen creek.

The Agency shave always visited this place and issued bans but such decision has always been thwarted by some big government officials. Thanks now that State House has taken notice of this and some of us hope this important and laudable effort by State House will become a reality.

Posted by on 10:32 am. Filed under Breaking News, ENVIRONMENT, NEWS, OTHER NEWS, THE ENVIRONMENT. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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