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EPASL’s Executive Chairperson shows confidence about wherever the Agency will be supervised and raises concern about commitment of those who are involved in its daily activities

Exclusive Interview:

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

In an exclusive interview with Standard Times Environment, the newly appointed Executive Chairperson of the Environment Protection Agency, Dr. Foday Moriba Jaward had said that he is not bothered about where his new Agency is located or supervised but all that is the top most interest is the willingness of the people to move it forward. Dr. Jaward believed that “the capabilities are there. It can still stay under the directorate of the President without a good job”. While he was speaking to Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya at his Office barely less than a week when he was handed over the leadership responsibilities at the EPASL, Dr. Jaward was impressed with the structure he inherited at the Agency under the then leadership of Madam Jattou Jallow as the first Executive Chairperson of the Environment Protection Agency after the Act establishing the Agency was amended in 2010.

Dr. Foday M. Jaward, EPASL Executive Chairperson

Standard Times Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya started by asking the new Executive Director to briefly explain about himself. Read excerpt.

“Dr. Jaward: My name is Dr. Foday Moriba Jaward. I am a Sierra Leonean born in Mobai Kailahun District. I attended the Bo Government Secondary School commonly called the Bo School. From here, I went to the Fouray Bay College where I earned my first degree in Chemistry with honors and then I was employed by the University as a Research and Teaching Assistant and was posted to the Njala University for three years and thereafter, I moved abroad to further my studies. I completed my Masters in Environmental Science and Technology with distinction.

In 1996, I came back home to serve my country and I was at the Chemistry Department at the USL for about four years. In 2000, I had a Commonwealth Scholarship to do my PhD in England and I went to the Lancaster University where I studied and completed my PhD in 2004. From there, I went to the United States where I have been all this while. I was employed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the University of South Florida in Tamper. After couple of years, I was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. Earlier this year, I came back home and I was asked by His Excellency the President to serve my home country. I was appointed as the Executive Chairperson for the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone.

Standard Times Environment: This is great and impressive experience you must have earned over the years. So with this kind of superb experiences you have gained overseas around the Environment, how honored are you coming back home to contribute to national development in the New Direction?

Dr. Jaward: Well for me it’s a great honor and I call it service to my native country because I was born here, I was brought up here and I went to school here. It’s like giving back to my country and with the experience I had had as an Environmental Scientist and then worked at the Department of Occupational Health, I think it takes a lot for me to just come and impact my society because the environment is our baby; we should take care of it, we all belong to it, it’s ours and coming back home I think it’s a good call.  When His Excellency the President informed me about his decision, I do not even think twice. I jumped at the decision because I think it was the right thing to do.

Standard Times Environment: You are now heading the Environment Protection Agency at a time when natural disasters are common in the country, what strategies are you going to employ to ensure people and Communities are safe in their Environment?

Dr. Jaward: That is a good question. As I said, I had a lot of experience. I had dozens of publications on environmental issues and with that as head of the EPASL; I had informed my colleague staff members that they have been doing a good job but we still need to do more. In the first place environmental issues can only be tackled holistically. By that, we attack the problem through several means. For example education, we have to enlighten our community, we have to enlighten people about the importance of the environment and its impact on us.

We are seeing the impact of Climate Change, we are all seeing the heavy rains and, the flooding and the mudslide affected not only Freetown but other parts of the country. I will encourage all my staff to work diligently in trying to educate the masses about environmental issues. The other thing I will be happy to do is trying to enforce the existing laws. Even if we educate the masses, if there is no law to enforce at the end of the day nothing is going to happen. So enforcing the laws on the environment is going to be critical at this particular point in time during my leadership. I understand that the previous government has been weak as far as environmental governance is concern and with that in mind, I will really try as much as possible to create some mitigation measures in the country. For example the Mining Companies; they are degrading our environment. They are creating ponds where they are mining and they are not taking proper care of our environment. So with my tenure here at the Agency, we will like to manage our environment properly which also needs a holistic approach.

We have to involve the Community Leaders and the Chiefs. The Mining Companies can’t just go and mine and give you money and at the end of the day your environment is contaminated and polluted. You have drainages and ponds all over and these are the things we need to do. Our attitudes as individuals also have to change. I have seen a lot of people drinking from plastic water and just drop them on the ground. That has to stop. I have seen people walking on the streets doing things that they are not supposed to do. If you have your garbage, collect it put it in a safe place and then it can be taken care of.

Standard Times Environment: In the New Direction Document of the SLPP Government, there are plans to transfer the EPASL to the Ministry of Lands Housing and the Environment. Very recently some Members of Parliament and some Civil Society Organizations are calling for your Agency to remain under the direct supervision of the Office of the President in other to maintain its efficiency. Do you share this view with them?

Dr. Jaward: Well honestly speaking Ishmael, I am here to work and I have been called by the President to do this work. I know he has my support and if he decides to bring the EPASL under the Ministry of Lands Housing and the Environment that will be fine for me.

Standard Times Environment: Dr. Jaward let us presume or imagine the EPASL is taken to the Lands and Environment Ministry. How efficient will it be?

Dr. Jaward:  I believe the capabilities are there. It can still stay under the directorate of the President and we don’t do a good job. It can move to the Ministry of Lands and the Environment and we don’t do a good job. So it actually depends to who are doing the work. To me it doesn’t really matter to where it belongs. The President has made his decision and please Ishmael take note that this is just a proclamation in Parliament. If it has to go through at the end of the day it must be enacted by the same Parliament. For instance the 2008 Environment Protection Act was amended in 2010 and for the 2010 Act to be amended again it has to go through the same Parliament. So until that time comes, I think whatever the President had asked me to do, I have no hesitation and I have the confidence in his leadership which had brought me back home to serve the nation.

Standard Times Environment: So if it is to be enacted how soon are we expecting such enacted to be done in Parliament?

Dr. Jaward: Honestly speaking I don’t know. It was a proclamation in Parliament and it is left with the Parliamentarians to do that. Partially as a technocrat, I am here to work but as I said, if the President wants the EPASL to be under his leadership, that fine and I have no qualms about that. If he wants to move it to the Ministry of Lands Housing and the Environment, I am also fine with that. The most important thing is to do the job and I am ready to do his job wherever it is and whatever it takes.   

Standard Times Environment: Dr. Jaward the issue of collaboration and harmonization of Governmental Ministries, Agencies and even key Environment stakeholders is vital towards environmental issues. During your tenure within the EPASL how are you going to ensure this is robustly done to intensify the fight towards a healthy environment in the country?

Dr. Jaward: Thank you Ishmael. This is a good question. I believe in collaboration. The EPASL cannot do it alone. The Ministry of Lands Housing and the Environment or NGOs cannot do it alone. So my plan is to bring everybody on board being it environmental NGO or whoever is involved with the environment we should all come on board. We should all come together so that we can take care of our environment because we all breathe the same air and we are facing the same environmental crisis. So why not work together as a team and as a unit to make sure that everything works well for us?

Standard Times Environment: Sir, the EPASL, the National Mineral Agency, the NPAA, the Disaster Management at the Office of National Security and the Metrological Department at the Ministry of Transport and Aviation are key Governmental institutions towards environmental management in the country. How would you want to see the work of all these institutions harmonized for the environment and a common cause?

Dr. Jaward: Collaboration! Collaboration! Collaboration! We all need to work with each other. You mentioned the Office of National Security. They are for human security. So if there is going to be natural disasters, they are called upon. If there is going to an environmental issue we are called upon. The most important of all is for anyone to have the ideology of the New Direction so we can improve on our environment. Whatever it takes, I will go for it.

Standard Times Environment: You must have read the Agency’s Strategic Plan, at present what plan of actions that the EPASL is presently mobilizing in other to see a robust transformation in environmental management or environmental communication in the country?

Dr. Jaward: The EPASL is perfectly structured. I was impressed with what I met here. What we need to do is to put few things in place to improve on these existing structures. But honestly speaking when we talk about environmental education, they have already started that. They have a whole department about education and communication and when we talk about enforcement, there is a compliance department so I think it is just to being in another bit of energy to drive the EPASL forward.

Standard Times Environment: During the handing over ceremony very recently, you said the “Environment is my baby and my passion”. How would you want to see your baby over the next couple of years?

Dr. Jaward: For everything you do, you have your short term, your medium term and your long term. My short term is to make sure that the structures that are actually existing continue to exist and there are a few things I have in mind but these are policy statements which you have to keep to your chest and when the time comes, I will definitely elaborate on them. But there are few things worth mentioning for example emission testing. This has to be done. It’s not only about bringing money. The most important thing is if vehicles are plying our roads, they have to be road worthy. The chemicals that come out of older vehicles when they don’t go through emission testing are really not good for you and me.

So by and large, emission testing comes first and tree planting is top of my agenda. I want to make sure that I get a one million tree project coming up in the future. If you build a house and have to cut down many trees as you can, you have to plant more of these trees again. This is very important because the environment as I said is very delicate. The trees are playing their own part and if you remove them, whenever it rains it causes erosion. I still remember during our days at Fouray Bay College, we used to see green Mountain tops, now these Mountain tops are no longer available. Our actions, our infrastructural development have actually contributed to this type of land degradation.

Standard Times Environment: Dr. Jaward it has been a pleasure having taken your time to talk to Standard Times Environment

Dr. Jaward: I am so grateful Ishmael.

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