President Bio’s suspension of logging and Export gets commendation and Green Scenery calls for Permanent ban

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

Logging for export is a major challenge that the Sierra Leone environment is facing. During the past administration of former President Ernest Bai Koroma, the export of timber logs was the order of the day and many Sierra Leoneans were engaged in this seeming lucrative business. As a result, many trees were not spared in the provinces. At present, northern districts in the country have almost all been cleared due to the logging for export overseas if not in China.

hundreds of heavy trucks ply the Tonkoh Limba Road on a daily basis to carry logs of Timber

As a way of remedying the situation and thinking positive for the environment especially when Climate change is at the doorsteps of people, on Monday 9th April 2018, the new government of President Julius Maada Bio has in an Executive Order no 1 ordered that “the export of timber logs is suspended with immediate effect” in the country.

The Executive Director of Green Scenery, Joseph Rahall while giving an overview to Standard Times Environment about the Sierra Leonean environment in general said that “the environmental situation in the country is going beyond reparable measures given that we have seen the scenarios of deforestation and land degradation in the country”. Apart from the massive deforestation in recent times, Mr. Rahall said “we have seen where construction of roads, Largescale investment and mining have taken their toes in the country and so all of these put together has a very telling effect on the condition of the Sierra Leone environment”.

Sierra Leone has seen in the past where its government officials have suspended timber logging and export for more than two regular times but situations got worst when such suspensions were lifted by those that instituted them. According to Mr. Rahall there are two things to consider in situations like these. The first one he said “a permanent ban on logging for export in the country simply because we want to rejuvenate our forests and to make concrete effort in terms of replacing the trees with not necessarily foreign species but with local species”.

After recommending to the new administration of President Bio for a long lasting ban on logging as a responsible government, Mr. Rahall said those logs that have already been processed must be confiscated by government and used locally in the country’s market.

Those who are engaged in this business will never do similar activity in their own home countries because there are stringent measures to deter them from doing so. This is why they are coming to countries like Sierra Leone where there are weak laws and governance as well as policies to implement on deforestation with the aim of exploiting the country’s resources. Mr. Rahall cautioned those involved in this business to understand that “the whole world need a cleaner environment especially on Climate Change”. He added that “if countries are flocking together to find ways on how to reduce the impact of Climate Change in the world, we should not be abating the process by allowing massive logging for export”.

As a member of the Environmental Forum for Action (ENFORAC), Mr. Rahall received the suspension of timber logs with gladness especially when years back they placed a massive pressure on the past governments to put a moratorium on deforestation in the country which at that time was not so rampant compared to the present situation. “The moratorium was lifted and all hell get loosed in terms of export” he said.

According to Mr. Rahall, the spate at which the logging took place in recent times is unprecedented and it has never really happened before in his life time.

Investigations conducted by Standard Times Environment also revealed that before the just concluded presidential elections and besides the huge piles of logs seen at the Hastings Airfield and some visibly being logged in almost all the North-West Districts in the Country, there were more than ten thousand Containers of raw logs seated at the Queen Elizabeth Quay waiting for export overseas. “The rate at which deforestation was done in recent years, has taken this country backwards for another fifty years because Sierra Leone only have 5% of forest cover and it will take a lot of research to really know how much forest cover we presently have” Rahall said.

Mr. Rahall has been one of the many key players who played a vital role to ensure issues of land and natural resources are formulated and to be added into what seem to be called the new Constitution of Sierra Leone. After lots of works, the former administration of President Koroma published a Government White Paper on the Constitutional Review process but deliberately failed to add the recommendations suggested by NGOs on issues of Land, the Environment and Natural Resources.

When speaking on the White Paper, Mr. Rahall said “that White Paper is not a White Paper by any standard. To me the White Paper that was released by the All Peoples Congress administration before the election was not only a sham but it is also a slap to all of us including those eighty people who worked so hard to bring about issues that affect all of seven million people in terms of governance and issues around land”.

He said if nothing is mentioned about those issues on land and the environment, it’s a concern to us and “we will still encourage the new government of His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio to annul that White Paper and work towards what they wrote in their own Manifesto on Land and the environment to recognize what the people of this country need when it comes to governance and issues of land and the environment”.

Speaking further, Mr. Rahall said that as an organization they will be engaging with the SLPP’s administration to ensure that what is in their Manifesto especially around land and the environment is manifested for the betterment of the country.

When he was speaking on the issues of Largescale land acquisition in the country, Mr. Rahall said there is a huge amount of land in the hands of Foreign Investors with many not active in those lands but have already occupied those lands thereby depriving the land owners. He said those who are active investors have a telling effect on the communities where they are occupying. He added with a call for the New government to look into these issues for a lasting settlement especially with Socfin in Sahn Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun District, Addax Bio-energy in Bombali and the Sierra Leone Agriculture Company in Port Loko Districts.

However, many government officials interviewed who preferred anonymity on the issue said “the suspension of the timber logging is a welcomed idea” and further called for an institution of a “permanent band on the export of timber logs especially when only few individuals were benefiting from the trade”.

Also, the Executive Chairperson of the Environment Protection Agency, Madam Jattou Jallow said “the Environment Protection Agency has made tremendous strides in raising the awareness on the protection of the environment” adding that “environmental management is not only vested on the EPASL alone but the general public, the line Ministries and all other Agencies also have the responsibility towards the protection of the Sierra Leonean environment”.


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