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Unsustainable Sand Mining in Lakka & Sugar Land Communities: …Youths demands employment or continue their activities

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

Sierra Leone has lost many houses along the Freetown Coastal beaches, due to illegal and unsustainable sand mining activities. The practise has been ongoing for many years, despite efforts by Government to sensitize people to adopt a sustained sand mining practice.

As part of Star TV and Standard Times Environmental series, we visited affected Communities to investigate and determine the impact of illegal sand mining activities in Lakka and its environs.  The team also weighed out how Government Officials have been working relentlessly in putting new measures in place to curb this illegal trade.

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Lakka beach was once an attractive centre, a beautiful habitat for locals and foreign nationals, but it is now a dream gone to the past and only be remembered by those who had experienced its beauty in those good old days.

Those who had one time in the past resided in those attractive and beautiful vicinities had abandoned these pristine settlements as they are now debris created from the beautiful structures.

With a distance of about seven miles from the heart of the Capital City of Freetown in the deep West, lies the Lakka Community that is hosting more than four thousand people. This Community can no longer accommodate the people living along the beach because of harsh conditions generated by sand miners.

Within the Lakka settlement, there is the Sugar Land Community, the Bololo Community, and the destroyed YMCA environment. More than 70 heavy duty trucks visit these Communities to collect sand, with each coming more than seven times per day. This depends on the demand for sand they are getting from their clients.

The Community is busy and most family heads are also busy with sand activities. Many of the families have removed their belongings and have relocated to other environmentally friendly settlements as they can no longer resist the conditions here.

As you can see, the aftermath of the unfavourable sand mining is clear at the Lakka Beach. Many structures have been demolished by Water and Erosion. Stones that were dressed with sand can now be visibly seen everywhere.

The more sand is tipped from this community, the greater the effects, including other surrounding, which is causing environmental destruction to settlements and make shift structures.

Previously, sand mining licenses were issued by the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment but the Local Government Act, 2004 has delegated this responsibility to the Western Area Rural District Council.

The Council gives out licenses and clearance to sand miners on a daily basis, but has failed to put regulations in place to ensure that the environment is protected, and no impact is caused on the Peninsular Coast.

Problems that occur in the sand mining Communities are not treated with the seriousness it requires; unfortunately the neglect is heaped on the Central Government for not taking action against those destroying the Environment.

Sand has many benefits for the society. It is used in the constructing of homes, roads and bridges across the country.

According to a 2012 Survey, Sand Extraction and Quarrying Activities by Statistics Sierra Leone, it is reported that more than 80% of Sand Miners are engaged in underground sand mining operation

The report claims that sand mining is largely done in the Communities of Sugar Land, Hamilton and Sussex.

The problem they are getting today in Lakka is as a result of sand mining activities from Sugar Land. The more sand is tipped from these places, the more pressure is put on nearby communities.

 

The Sierra Leone Community depends on the sand to build houses, roads, bridges and other habitable structures, but measures should be put in place and miners be cautioned. There are fresh marks showing recent sand mining activities on the beach either by members of the various Communities or intruders who claimed to be locally resident in those localities.

About 20 years ago, some of these places were destinations for tourists, researchers and beach lovers. Today, this is not so. There was a step around this vicinity that linked the MK Sumah House to the sea but all of these have been destroyed by the waves of the sea.

Few years back, these Coconut trees were contributing to the attractive nature of the beach. As you can now see all of them have tasted the power of the hitting waves in the banks. This one here is expected to fall down shortly.

When my Producer Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya made a visit here in 2012, there were contractors struggling to erect a fence on this place. In less than three years today, there is a new story to explain. The fence and embankment that worth millions of Leones have all been destroyed.

This is the power of nature, destroying houses and settlements at its mercy.

As it, No amount of money can prevent it from doing this. The only solution may be changing the way the beaches are handled.

Unsustainable sand mining must stop, to avoid the devastating consequences it will pose to Communities.

This collapsed building used to be a swimming pool. Constructing it and the house had cost a lot of money by the owner. Its embankment was thick, but it thickness cannot withstand the forces of nature when it wants to expatiate its qualities.

Livelihood is a major reason why many people are involved into this kind of business. Most of the youths involved in sand mining when contacted explained that it provides them with jobs and employment.

Experts have argued that sand mining activity is providing informal work for people who would otherwise be unemployed, uncontrolled, but was quick to say that sand mining is destroying the natural beauty of the Freetown Coastal environment thereby driving away tourists, business owners and residents.

Jane Aspen Gbandewa is a British Tourist based in Sierra Leone. She is the co-founder of the Titos Paradise Eco-beach organization. For years she and her husband have been campaigning against unsustainable sand mining around her Community in Black Johnson.

She speaks of what normally comes into her mind when lots of trucks go in for sand in the beaches. She believes that uncontrolled sand mining is affecting tourism in the country. Together with some Stakeholders, Madam Jane stressed the need for sustainability in sand mining.

But this is not the case for most Sand Miners. They believe Tourism cannot generate income for them than collecting sand in the beach.

The Government of Sierra Leone in the past has taken environmental awareness and education to communities along the Coast and informed them about the dangers of unsustainable sand mining in their Communities.

Mr. Kamara is a government officer working for the EPASL. They have been sensitizing people for long to adapt to sustainable sand mining practice. He commented on the consequences communities will face if there are no regulations on sand mining.

He spoke on the important of sand and sustainability and believes that sand is important and there could be no infrastructural development without the use of it.

Mr. Kamara believes that sand is a source of livelihood for many people and communities in the country but that should not be a stepping stone to destroy the environment and be unable to care for future generations.

Even though the EPASL is working towards protecting the beaches, there is presently no regulation on sand mining in the country.

Mr. Kamara believes that if there are strong regulations backed by enforcement, they will be able to protect the beaches and lawlessness will not strive towards unsustainable sand mining.

The issue of livelihood and survival is a major problem in protecting Sierra Leone natural resources including the sand. There is always an argument of where to get survival in the midst of low rate of employment in the country.

Few months ago, the Chairman of the Tipper Ground at Levuma, Ibrahim Kanu denied claims of carrying any uncontrolled sand mining in the beach. He said they are only mining on specified days at John Obay and Hamilton.

The Chairman mentioned special interest that is normally visible to government officers who combined with the communities citing orders from above. In one of his recommendations,

Mr. Kanu called for military and police officers with guns normally to be placed at beach areas so that it will be protected.

Statistics Sierra Leone in 2012 recommends for a “need for Construction companies such as CSC and China Railway involved in sand use activities to pay compensation to host communities as their actions have lasting impact not only on the land but also on the lives and livelihood of host communities”.

Government authorities should ensure that no one is allowed to construct a house along the beaches

The Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment refused us an interview to comment on the situation.

Sand has been used for decades of years since the development process started in Sierra Leone. It is used by building Contractors to construct houses and Office buildings as well as roads. In cognizant of this fact, the authorities concern must continue to ensure sand mining is conducted in a responsible manner.

Sand contributes about 99% to the housing and road construction in the country. It is needed at all times for various types of construction works, but the only thing needed is to set rules and regulation and enforcement in order to protect the environment and communities around the beaches where sand mining is presently going on.

Unless more actions are taken, there will be more relocation at Lakka village and other Communities.

This is the cost of un-sustained sand mining activity in the country. Unless more drastic actions are taken by Government Officials, Sierra Leoneans can still continue to face the impact of the carelessness of the few.

Sand Mining is a lucrative business in these communities. It is from it most of them get their daily survival. Having to stop people from doing this type of business, without alternatives, will really take time and effort to achieve.

 

 

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