Lands and Environment Ministry re-demarcates Sugar Loaf Community but plots 107, 111A and 111B falls within the catchment areasMay 21, 2012
By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya
After pressure from the Sierra Leone Environmental Journalists Association (SLEJA) for the present Minister of Lands Country Planning and the Environment, Momodu Alieu Pat-Sowe to put constructive mechanisms in which his ministry can handle the protection of the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve along the Regent communities, documentary evidence obtained by this writer has revealed that positive preventive developments have been made after the SLEJA’s pressure.
A document entitled “report on the recovery of the Babadorie Catchment area, Western Area Peninsular Forest” clearly states how a Global Information Specialist (GIS) was hired to carry out the re-demarcation of the Babadorie Community and clearly indicate where the catchment area is situated. The report revealed that plots 107, 111A and 111B falls within the catchment areasdespite the Lands Minister and other land officialdenial of the said plot belonging to part of the catchment area.
It could be recalled that few months back, the recalcitrant Minister of Lands Country Planning and the Environment turned down the orders of the Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Alhajie Abubakarr Sidikie Samuel Sumana to demolish all makeshifts structures within and around the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve. The Minister of Lands denied that all makeshifts structures should not be demolished until he gets a meeting with senior management of his Ministry.
The Minister’s attitude resulted to the Sierra Leone Environmental Journalists Association to issue a press statement condemning the Minister’s act of not demolishing the makeshifts structures of the encroachers and later, SLEJA also wrote a letter to the President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and copied many stakeholders including the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone for immediate intervention in other to save the Peninsular Forest.
Documentary evidences in possession with this writer shows why the Ministry of Lands was refusing to execute the executive orders of the Vice President of Sierra Leone. On the 2nd of September 2011, a letter of offer for the lease of state land at Babadorie Phase 1 in Hill Station was written by the Minister of Lands, Pate Sowe to Alpha Kamara who resides at 32 Second Street in New England. In the letter of offer to the land around the catchment areas, Momodu Allieu Pat-Sowesaid to Alpha Kamara that “I refer to your letter of application on the above and to convey my approval to take on lease land you applied for as shown on PLOT No. 107 at Babadorie Phase 1”. The land at the phase one is within the buffer zone of the western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve at the Babadorie Community and the man who this land was offered is a relative of one of the secretaries of the Minister of Lands.
After obtaining documents on the said plot, Standard Times Environment cannot get direct contact with the Minister of Lands Country Planning and the Environment. The Deputy Minister of Lands Country Planning and the Environment, Ahmed Khanou after pressure from the Vice President and other officials concerning the letters that have been obtained by this reporter and press statement, called me at his 3rd Floor Youyi Building Office in other to inform me on the proactive measures his ministry has taken. The Deputy Minister assured me sometimes back that they should have moved and demolishes all the structures at the said phase one site but their vehicle was having mechanical difficulties. He said as soon as the fault is amended, the Ministry will go and demolish all structures within the said buffer zone.
While negotiation is ongoing for the Ministry to take action, Standard Times Environment obtained a leaked report where the service of GIS expert was hired for the re-demarcation of structures at the said buffer zone.The overall goal of the assignment is to recover and maintain the Babadorie catchment and the study achieved the following; established the spatial relationship between the Babadorie Catchment (WAPFoR buffer zone) and the three survey layouts (Phase I, Phase II and Phase III) by the Ministry, determine the number of layout plots that falls within the buffer zone (Babadorie catchment) and generate the coordinates of the limits between the catchment and the survey layouts. The Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone is championing the erection of wall of life at the Sugar Load and the coordinate will be utilized by Forestry for construction of the WALL OF LIFE fence infrastructure to protect the reserve and its water sheds against human disturbances as proposed by the Sierra Leone–Environment Protection Agency (EPA).
According to findings in the leaked document, it revealed that “spatial relationship between Survey Layout and Babadorie Catchment Phase 1 layout on the south encroaches on the catchment by approximately 30m”.The document also shows the Number of Survey Layout Plots in the Catchment area of the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve. Section 4.2 of the report on the recovery of the Babadorie Catchment area, Western Area Peninsular Forest revealed that “three survey plots in phase 1fall directly within the catchment, this includes: plot 107, plot 111A and plot 111B”
Since the report was issued by the GIS expert, no action has been taken by the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment. An official from the Forestry Department of the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security said no demolition has been made at the catchment area for the past three months by either their Ministry or that of the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment.
Read on environmental Forum in our subsequent editions the reasons behind the Lands Minister’s recalcitrant nature and how the Ministry has made no progress in terms of planning in the city for the past years.