May 8, 2018 By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya
Executive Director of Green Scenery, Joseph Rahall, has called on the Sierra Leone Peoples Party-led government to place a permanent ban on timber logging for export so as to rejuvenate the already depleted forests and make concrete effort to replacing trees with not necessarily foreign species but local variety.
He expressed disappoint that the environmental situation in the country was going beyond reparable measures, given that ‘we have seen the scenarios of deforestation and land degradation in the country”.
He urged that logs that have already been processed be confiscated by government and used locally in the country’s market.
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 toll on the country and so all of these put together has a very telling effect on the condition of the Sierra Leone environment”.
According to Rahall, those who are involved in timber for export could never engage in similar business 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,’ he said.
He cautioned those involved in the business to understand that the whole world needs a cleaner environment especially in view of Climate Change.
He added that if countries have been coming together to find solutions on how to reduce the impact of Climate Change in the world, Sierra Leone should not be undermining the process by allowing massive logging for export.
As a member of the Environmental Forum for Action (ENFORAC), Mr. Rahall said he received the suspension of logging with utmost delight, especially when years back loggers placed massive pressure on the past governments to lift a moratorium on industrial logging.
“The moratorium was lifted and all hell got loosed in terms of export,” he said.
According to the Green Scenery boss, the spate of logging in recent times was unprecedented and alarming.
Before the conduct of the just concluded presidential elections there were more than ten thousand containers of raw logs waiting to be shipped at the Queen Elizabeth Quay.
“The rate at which deforestation was done in recent years has taken this country backwards for another fifty years because Sierra Leone only has 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 a key land and natural resources activist in the country, and has campaigned for environmental protection to be included the new Constitution of Sierra Leone.
However, after the Constitutional Review Committee, headed by the late Justice Edmond K. Cowan, published their report, the former administration of President Ernest Koroma published a Government White Paper in which they deliberately failed to include recommendations suggested by NGOs on issues of Land, the Environment and Natural Resources.
When speaking on the White Paper, Mr. Rahall charged that it was not a White Paper by any standard but a complete sham.
‘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 on the faces of all of us, including those eighty people who worked so hard to bring about issues that affected all of seven million people in terms of governance and issues around land,’ he charged.
He encouraged the new administration of President Julius Maada Bio to annul that White Paper and work towards what his party wrote in their New Direction Manifesto on Land and the Environment – to recognise what the people of the country need when it comes to governance and issues of land and the environment.
He noted that his organisation would be engaging the SLPP administration to ensure that what is in their Manifesto – especially around land and the environment – is implemented for the betterment of the country.
Rahall further observed that there was a huge amount of land in the hands of foreign investors, with many not active in those lands but have already occupied them, thereby depriving the actual owners.
He called on the new government to look into land issues for a lasting settlement, especially with Socfin in Sahn Malen Chiefdom, Pujehun District, Addax Bio-energy in Bombali District and the Sierra Leone Agriculture Company in Port Loko District.
Logging for export is a major challenge that the Sierra Leone environment is facing. During the past administration of former President Ernest Bai Koroma, export of timber logs was the order of the day and many Sierra Leoneans were engaged in that 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.
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, 9 April, 2018, the new government of President Julius Maada Bio issued Executive Order No 1 that, “the export of timber logs is suspended with immediate effect” in the country.