SLEJA writes President Koroma of sierra Leone on enviornmental concerns
His Excellency, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma
C/O Mr. Osho Coker
Secretary to the President
RE-ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS FROM THE LANDS AND ENVIRONMENT MINISTER,
PAT-SOWE AND CALL FOR URGENT ACTIONS FROM THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
Mr. President, on behalf of the Sierra Leone Environmental Journalists Association, I write to formally inform you and extend our deepest regret towards the current Minister of Lands Country Planning and the Environment, Hon. Pat Sowe for his defiant attitude and action towards orders given to him by the Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, H.E Abubakarr Sidikie Samuel Sumana to demolish makeshift structures at Sugar Loaf within the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve (WAPFOR).
Sir, before I delve into the issue in question, I must first on behalf of the Sierra Leone Environmental Journalists Association thank the government of Sierra Leone in protecting the Sierra Leonean environment. Strives such as making the Gola Forest becomes a National Park and empowering the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone to name a few are worth commending. This is why Madam Jatou Jallow, the head of the Environment Protection Agency–Sierra Leone, reported in a natural resources gathering in New York last week that “political commitment at the highest level of government to transparency and good governance of natural resources was essential to the progress made by Sierra Leone.” But this seems not working in the presence of Pat Sowe at the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment.
The Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve, which is about to be enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage list, is presently facing threats of encroachment and deforestation. Other activities against the conservation of the reserve are also visible within this reserve. The Vice President after observing that the reserve is facing these threats, on the 11th of April 2012, quickly summoned a meeting at his office which was attended by Energy, Lands and Forestry Ministers, the Director of Forestry, CSP Suluku representing the Police, WAPFOR Project Head, ENFORAC Representative and myself on behalf of the Sierra Leone Environmental Journalists Association (SLEJA). I made a presentation to the Vice President and members present on the deplorable situation of the Reserve. Such presentation is available on your request sir.
Your Excellency Sir, due to the presentation, the three stakeholder Ministers and the Vice President all discussed the importance of the Peninsular Forest such as its encroachment and the urgent action the government of Sierra Leone should take in other to address the situation. The Vice President, considering the importance of the Reserve to the people of Sierra Leone especially those in the city, ordered and instructed the Sierra Leone Police and the Lands and Forestry Ministers to “destroy with immediate effects all makeshifts structures within the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve”.
This welcomed decisive decision by the Vice President did not go down well with the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment who is alleged to have apportioned all the lands within the Peninsular Forest at Sugar Loaf for his close supporters and family friends, while ignoring the forestry laws and regulations and the national interest of the country which we as Sierra Leoneans should be championing including the Ministers.
Mr. President Sir, as a result of the stern, strong and welcomed pronouncement and order by the Vice President, the Minister of Lands Country Planning and the Environment, Minister Pat Sowe defied such order and said “no demolition of those makeshifts structures at Sugar Loaf for now. Let us put it on hold until I consult and discuss with my staff at the Ministry”. The Sierra Leone Police is ready to execute the orders of the VP.
It may surprise you Mr. President as the Farther of the Nation that since the Environment Minister; Pat Sowe made such pronouncement on that date in the presence of attendees; he is yet to consult with his staff and execute the orders of the Vice President. The Sierra Leone Environmental Journalists Association (SLEJA) has confirmed it from the Forestry department of the Ministry of Agriculture that no action is yet to be taken in relation to the matter.
The place in question where the Vice President made specific reference to is at Sugar Loaf in Regent the host of the Babadori Reservoir. The dam has significantly lost its brim over the years as a result of the encroachment for settlement and the like. This reservoir in the past was serving the people of Hill Station, Wilberforce and Lumley Communities accordingly. However, it is no longer serving the people any useful purpose these days.
Mr. President, the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve as you may be aware is presently receiving a five year funding (2009-2013) of €3.2M from the European Union (EU) and the German Welthungerhilfe (WHH) for the forest conservation and its watershed. The project has achieved tremendous success in protecting the Reserve over the past years by providing livelihood for the communities co-habiting along the reserve.
Some have been provided with bakeries, honey bee keeping, animal husbandry, Okada motor bikes, Vocational skills trainings to name a few. It now seems as if all these efforts have not been yielded any dividend by the communities aided by the Ministry of Lands under Minister Pat Sowe. Environmentalists have opined that if the government of Sierra Leone does not take urgent actions to remedy the situation, the funders will reconsider their funding commitment of the project after the first phase ends in 2013. We do not want donor partners to withhold funds and shift their focus from this sector now considering its significance to the people of the city.
In this regard, as the President of Sierra Leone who puts premium on environmental issues especially in capacitating the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone Environmental Journalists Association (SLEJA) is kindly requesting the Office of the President to address the followings;
- 1. In other to help reduce the massive encroachment within the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve, the Office of the President or the Government of Sierra Leone should come out with a position paper indicating its stance and actions for the protection of the Peninsular Forest Reserve;
- 2. The Office of the President should instruct the Minister of Lands Country Planning and the Environment to explain to the people of Sierra Leone why he defied the orders of the Vice President in demolishing the makeshifts structures at the Sugar Loaf;
- 3. That the government of Sierra Leone implements the orders of the Vice President especially when such orders are towards ensuring the protection of the Sierra Leonean Environment and the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve and its catchment;
- 4. The Sugar Loaf area hosts the Babadori Dam that supplies water to the communities in Lumley. This dam is presently exposed barely due to large scale encroachment. In this regard, SLEJA calls on the Office of the President to pass an Executive Order instructing the Lands Ministry and its officials to stop all its land dealings with people within and around the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve;
- 5. The present rate of collaboration in protecting the Sierra Leonean environment is not visible within the Ministry responsible for Lands and the Environment and that of Forestry. The Sierra Leone Environmental Journalists Association therefore called on the stakeholder Ministries to work closely with each other to ensure the protection and conservation of the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve which is about to be enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is protected.
Sir, the Sierra Leone Environmental Journalists Association is a registered Environmental Journalists Association in Sierra Leone. Our aims and objectives includes but not limited to;
1) Create and promote a greater awareness of Environmental issues in Sierra Leone;
2) Organize dialogue with stakeholders with a view to giving out greater emphasis to environmental issues;
3) Campaign for the careful use of Sierra Leone’s sustainable natural resources;
4) Help promote sustainable environmental development in Sierra Leone;
5) Encourage greater exchange of ideas and information on environmental issues in Sierra Leone;
6) Encourage institutions to support a system of awards for excellence in the promotion of environmental awareness;
7) Provide public and journalists with information/resources in order to encourage them to promote international corporation between professionals of the media;
8) Conduct research on Sierra Leone’s environmental problems and publish, air or broadcast about them;
9) Provide a data base about environmental development in Sierra Leone through publication of journals, etc
We believe that with whatever contribution you may assist, it will improve on caring for the environment for which the Sierra Leone Environmental Journalists Association stands.
As the government of Sierra Leone put more premiums on environmental and conservation issues, we believe you can amicably address the situation and the issues we have raised in this letter.
Thanks in appreciation,
Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya
Director, Sierra Leone Environmental Journalists Association (SLEJA)
- Vice President
His Excellency Alhaji Abubakarr Sidikie Samuel Sumana
Tower Hill Freetown
- Chief of Staff
Mr. Kelfala Marah
- Executive Chairperson
Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone
3rd Floor Youyi Building
- Project Coordinator
Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve project (WAPFOR)
Environmental Forum for Action (ENFORAC)
- European Union
- The Minister
Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security
- Minister Pat Sowe
Ministry of Lands country Planning and the Environment
- The Minister of Energy and Water Resources
Siaka Stevens Street (Electricity House)
- The Minister of Information and Communication
- The Head
Office of National Security
- The Director of Forestry
Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security
- The President
Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ)
56 Campbell Street
- The Press
- SLEJA’s File