Salone News

Sierra Leone: Time to act on environmental issues

By  | 4 June 2010 at 02:57 | 1877 views

Commentary

Sierra Leone will join other nations in observing this weekend (Saturday, June 5) as World Environment Day 2010 with the theme “Biodiversity — Ecosystems Management and the Green Economy."

To mark this occasion Heads of State, Prime Ministers and Ministers of the Environment will deliver statements and commit themselves to care for the Earth in general. Pledges will be made for the establishment of permanent governmental structures dealing with environmental management. It also provides an opportunity to sign or ratify international environmental conventions.

It is also expected that President Koroma’s government in Sierra Leone will treat this WED 2010 (World Environment Day 2010) seriously to give a human face to environmental issues, empower fellow Sierra Leoneans to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development and to promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues. The government is also expected to advocate partnership which will ensure that citizens enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day, “Many Species. One Planet. One Future”, according to Un Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, echoes the call of the International Year of Biodiversity to stop mass extinction and raise awareness about the vital importance of the millions of species that inhabit our planet’s soils, forests, oceans, coral reefs and mountains. Our health, well-being and sustainable future depend on this intricate, delicate web of ecosystems and life.

Sierra Leone’s biodiversity before independence in the 60s was really well endowed with natural resources in land, air and sea. However, the country, after independence, failed to sustain its resources due to activities that affected the ecosystem including mining, fishing, hunting, farming, infrastructural development and a host of others.

It is also important to take into consideration the destruction of our rain forests through logging, deforestation of our beautiful hills and mountains. Think about how the capital, Freetown, looked like 5-10 years back compared to now; take a look at our once beautiful mount Aureol…now deforested.

The country has become a dumping ground for scrap machines especially used cars and trucks thus creating environmental pollution. The northern part of the country is gradually becoming a desert especially Bombali and Koinadugu districts as a result of fuel coal burning and the search for fire wood.

The various wild life species that we can boast of including monkeys, chimpanzees, grass cutters (cutting grass) to name but a few have mostly been killed and consumed by the citizens…go to Masiaka or Matotoka checkpoints (where dead wild animals are sold to motorists) to prove me right.

The current environmental crisis is a clear and present danger requiring our immediate attention. None of us are exempt from this challenge. Especially worrisome is the loss of biodiversity, intensified by habitat damage and climate change as a result of our irresponsible actions and ignited by our short-sighted selfishness and lack of environmental awareness. The number of endangered species on the Red List has been increasing at an alarming rate, from 15,000 species in 2000 to 44,837 species in 2008. Biodiversity loss is in serious danger, and we have not a minute to lose.

Only when we fully value nature will we properly protect it. We rely on the natural world for our food, for clean water, for protection from floods and storms and to provide us with a habitable climate. If we lose nature, we lose ourselves.

Sierra Leone is facing enormous environmental threats. We – the citizens of the country – should unite our efforts to address the challenges now. We shouldn’t wait until the crisis wakes us to reality. We call for individual and collective action. Perhaps organize a neighbourhood clean-up, stop using plastic bags, organize collective tree planting, walk to work … The possibilities are endless.

The public should give politicians the license to operate. If the Green Economy is to take root country-wide, the time has come to galvanize our government in part by building community awareness and public action from the grass roots up. WED 2010’s theme is Many Species, One Planet, One Future—it is high time that the one species with the power to make positive change recognizes these fundamental facts.

Towards the realization of Sierra Leone’s commitment to sustainable environment management, the Ministry of the Environment has to adopt participatory and community based approaches involving stakeholders across all sectors in order to create awareness and enhance environmental friendly habits and life styles and to domesticate environmental issues and empower the people.

Photos: Some of the increasingly "bald" hills surrounding Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Photo credit: Oswald Hanciles.

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