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Climate Change and surface flooding in Sierra Leone

…Environment Protection Agency tells us the reasons why they occur

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

Recent surface over flooding in the capital city of Freetown shows that despite routine construction works being done by renowned engineers in the country, Sierra Leone is still yet to cope and resist the forces of nature and withstand flooding and heavy storm despite the structural street design being put in place by engineers.

Recent monsoon rains in major parts of the city shows the devastating effect heavy down pour of rain can cause in poor settlements and in the capital city of Freetown. Many homes were flooded while people were wading in at least five feet of water inside their bedrooms and homes, they were also watching along when their properties worth millions of Leones are being destroyed by the heavy down pour of rains at Dundas and Charles Streets, Congo Cross and Wilkinson Road, Kissy Road and many coastal communities in the city such as Kroobay and Susans Bay.

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At Dundas Street, just like in other communities, the rains were coming in speed for hours, vehicles were trapped and few strong and energetic people were taking pictures and video shots of scenes of the rains. But it was not so for many families who were not better prepared to face nature when it displays on the resistant of man. The heavy storm flew some roof tops to other areas. Thank God it was not like the United States of America, Pakistan, India and China who had experienced heavy storms and devastating consequences of climate change and heavy down pour of rains in recent times.

Freetown capital City is not strategically located and because of this, it is prone to environmental disasters such as flooding and landslides. During the rainy season, tons of wastes are collected from the hill tops and deposited right into the central business district of the city thereby causing blockades in culverts and drainages. When the rains persist to drop, it will cause severe damage in homes and businesses places for hundreds of people in the city.

The Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone is an institution established by an Act of Parliament to be at the center of all environmental protection in the country. The Agency in the past has been engaging people and communities in the country to adopt new measures in combating deforestation, Climate Change and any actions that will hinder severely on the environment. Most of their calls has always been neglected and treated with a pinch of salt since the country itself is older than the practice of environmental protection in Sierra Leone.

According to the environmental Agency climate change is changing due to “our activities which influence the micro-climate of the city”. The deputy Director At the Environment Protection Agency in charge of the Climate Change Secretariat Mr. Mohamed Bah said the location of the city overlooking the hills put it at risk and whatever “irresponsible actions taken on the hills will affect the city greatly”.

Explaining further on the causes of the recent flooding in Freetown, Mr. Bah said deforestation due to housing construction on hill tops, dumping of all sort of wastes into the drainages and reduce of surface flow of the gutters through banks of sand bags, sand and stone mining on the hills and coastal areas as well as removal of mangroves are the major causes of flooding in the city.

All of these activities have impact on human beings and the economy. According to Mr. Bah activities like these will cause surface flooding which leads to loss of life and property, landslides and mudflows, tilting of electric poles and creation of water ponds to serve as breeding places for water-borne diseases such as malaria, cholera and diarrhea. Mr. Bah notes that deposition of silt materials on the newly constructed roads will result to potholes adding that deforestation will reduce the amount of water supply due to destruction of the catchments and watershed areas.

While he was making reference to the recent presence of seaweed into the coastal waters of Sierra Leone, Mr. Bah reiterated that nutrient overlapping in the coastal waters on the continental shelf and deposition of wastes, nutrients, sulphate, and metal ores from industrial and agricultural activities resulting to sea weed bloom.

Explaining on the steps they took when they had about the recent over flooding in major streets in the city, Mr. Bah said the executive Chairperson of the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone together with her dedicated staff were out on that day to assess the damage by visiting Congo Cross bridge area where a church and school were destroyed. He said they will continue to sensitize through national and local radio and TV programmes, jingles and songs aired to stop the clearing of the hills, mangroves and continuous removal of sand in sensitive areas. He adds that they will partner with other government departments to educate the public on the importance of environmental protection and climate change.

Explaining how they can better protect the National park, Mr. Bah said they will provide financial support for construction of guard posts and pillars to prevent further encroachment of the catchment areas of the Freetown Peninsular Forest Reserve and the Aberdeen Creek. There is presently a Climate Change secretariat at the agency through assistant from the European Union and the UNDP who are now working towards developing a national climate change strategy and action plan which the UNDP is helping great to be achieved.

According to Mr. Bah, “until we stop dumping waste into drainages, until we stop clearing the trees, we will always face severe consequences of climate change”.

After seeing the causes of the heavy rains over the weekends, the Executive Chairperson of the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone, Madam Jatou Jallow said “it’s amazing to see how powerful water is” advising that human beings need to change their way in which they care for the environment. According to Madam Jallow, environmental issues are not just environmental concerns alone but there has now been development as well as human right issues where people must change the way they care and respond to the environment in other to get a well meaning habitat.

According to expertise advice from the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone, there will come a time when the country will experience drought due to persistent clearing of the hills overlooking the capital city.

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