By Mohamed Massaquoi
Civil Society Advocacy Network on Climate Change and the Environment, in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Guma Valley Water Company, representatives from the Ministry of Lands and Freetown City Council, among others, last week embarked on a one-day on-the-sport visit to the water catchments around the Freetown peninsular to assess the level of destruction on the forest reserve and how the problem can be mitigated.
There are key water catchment areas within the Western Area peninsular forests supplying water to residents of the capital city for decades, but it is reported that the main dam is seriously under threat as a result of human activities. This was the main reason stakeholders in the environmental sector decided to visit the area in order to get first-hand information on the development and how they can engage other line ministries to strengthen security within the reserve.
The ecosystem and the biodiversity around the peninsular are vanishing at an alarming rate mainly as a result of human activities. The use of power saw machines, farming activities, construction of residential houses are common trend within and around the dam.
One of the leading civil society activists, Charles Mambu, said if proper mechanisms were not put in place, the city will be seriously affected by water shortage. He said the forest cover is under threat, a development that has created negative impact on the water sources within the forest reserve.
Mambu further noted that the main thrust of the visit was to bring stakeholders together and to assess the situation for future intervention.
“We should be able to effectively implement laws dealing with environmental protection,” noted the civil society man. “It is no secret that the water catchment is significant to our survival. We must protect our environment. All of us should collaboratively work together for the implementation of our environmental laws.”
He added that the Forestry regulations state that any person caught cutting a tree in the Western Area peninsular forest should be punished by law.
Director of EPA, Madam Khadijatou Jallow, said the responsibility of her department is to protect the environment but lamented that various human activities are creating a lot of problems for the environment.
She said there should be no illegal activity within the forest reserve and therefore ministries, departments and agencies responsible for environmental protection should work collaboratively to implement government policies and programmes geared towards protecting the environment.
“The loss of biodiversity, marine pollution, land degradation, problems of urban poor and waste, and climate change should be mitigated. We must be able to have proper plans in place to protect the environment,” said Madam Jallow. “Sierra Leone is a beautiful country and we must be able to protect the environment at all cost.”
She added that the visit has helped them to better understand some of the challenges faced by Guma Valley in providing water for the city.