By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya
In November 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency of Sierra Leone established the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Working Groups in various coastal communities across the country. Members of these Working Groups are expected to make/influence decisions on coastal resources management at the district level through the devolution of responsibilities and expertise to the relevant local authorities where necessary. There are also national committees that are also expected to facilitate the coordination, collaboration, and cooperation in coastal resource management as specified in the sectorial legal mandates of Ministries Departments, and Agencies represented in the committee.
The Agency through the Natural Resources Management department has recently activated the districts Integrated Coastal Zone Management Working Groups in Port Loko, Matru Jong, Moyamba, and in the Western Area Rural District of Waterloo with the aim of alerting them to their responsibilities and them to nominate who should be part of the district level working group.
Among others, the roles and responsibilities of the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Working Groups include; enforcement of bylaws relating to coastal resources management and environmental protection, education & sensitize communities on rights and obligations for protecting the coastal resources, provision of technical and financial assistance to the local government through the devolution of staff and resources, responsible for monitoring disaster risk and management, provision of early warning information services and review and endorsement of bylaws for the management of all coastal areas and resources in line with national legal frameworks.
The working groups in the Western Rural, Port Loko, Moyamba, and Matru Jong break into group sessions and dilated on their responsibilities and how they want the working groups to look in the future as well as what should be done for the groups to function effectively towards coastal zone management.
Before embarking on the responsibilities of the various working groups during a break-up session, the Assistant Director of the Natural Resources Management at the EPASL, Joseph Sapunka Turay reiterated the interests of the government of Sierra Leone towards the protection of the Sierra Leone environment including coastal communities. He emphasized the enormous powers given to Chiefdom authorities which are vested in the new EPA Act of 2022. Speaking in the coastal communities, Mr. Turay called on representatives from the different communities to contribute immensely towards the newly formed committees as their communities are very strategic and vital towards environmental management and protection in the country.
Stressing the vital role of communities, the EPA Assistant Director said that there are many challenges to environmental Protection which include enforcement of laws. He called on the community people to enforce the bylaws in their various communities to ensure the full protection of the environment in their various localities.
The Chief Administrator of the Moyamba District Council, John L. Mansaray on behalf of his council noted that the protection of the environment is critical especially when signs have shown that the environment is depleting on a daily basis. He congratulated the EPASL for its strides toward environmental protection and further promised to relay good messages on the protection of coastal communities and the environment to the council.
The establishment and activation of the district Coastal Zone Management Working Group is part of the adapting to Climate Change Induced Coastal Risk Management project in Sierra Leone supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is being implemented by the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone.