The Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) welcomes and supports the initiative of the new Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Mr Jiwoh Abdulai, to stop deforestation at the Western Area Peninsula National Park (WAPNP). CSSL and many other CSOs and concerned citizens have been raising serious concerns over the rapid spate of deforestation on the hills of the Western Area over a long period now. Up to date, attempts from government to stop this trend have not been strong enough, and failed due to financial gaps and/or weak commitment from all key stakeholders involved. From the Society’s perspective, this is not only an issue for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, but also for several others including the Ministers of Lands, Housing and Country Planning, Mining and Mineral Resources, Water Resources and Sanitation, and Health among others.
Like other like-minded environmental organisations, CSSL welcomes the attempt of the new Minister of Environment and Climate Change to continue with the job of his predecessor in raising awareness regarding the importance of our fresh water sources and taking the matter seriously. After his visit to the Guma Dam, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Mr Jiwoh Abdulai said, “…the situation poses an existential threat…,” and promised to escalate the matter to the Office of the Chief Minister. CSSL welcomes the initiative to also involve the other ministries mentioned above.
The WAPNP can only be saved when all ministries involved work hand in hand, when communities start to become ambassadors for nature, and when people stop buying land for construction or other business purposes in the buffer zone or even inside the national park.
In view of the aforementioned, CSSL is re-echoing this call on government and communities to stop the ongoing deforestation and degradation at the WAPNP. “We need to protect this forest! We can already prove that the surface of our water sources is decreasing; there is less water in the rivers. When we continue like this, there will not be enough water for Freetown and the Peninsula in the near future. We should remember that water is life!” emphasized Papanie Bai-Sesay, CSSL’s Senior Biodiversity Officer and BftW Project Manager in CSSL`s new documentary about the WAPNP. The documentary explains the state of the forest, the threats and the consequences of ongoing deforestation, mining, and construction.
What has to be done to save the Western Area Peninsula Forest?
The Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) – among other engagements – works with the community at Big Water to find alternatives of deforestation with them, educates our next generation through school nature clubs and is part of the Water Fund – Sierra Leone, which works with 14 communities around the peninsula to raise awareness about the importance of the forest, teach communities on reforestation and monitoring of planted trees and help communities in identifying demarcated points of the protected area for a sustainable protection of the forest.
But it is not only about CSOs and communities making frantic strides to save the forest, we also need full commitment from all parts of society, including the government. The implications of this commitment are that, licenses should not be issued for mining inside the buffer zone and the protected area; the responsible authorities should be practically serious in prosecuting those who violate the laws; there should be enough budget allocated for those government agencies whose mandate it is to enforce the laws and regulations protecting our environment and natural resources.
CSSL is always ready to support government and the new ministers in their battle to save the Western Area Peninsula Forest, the main source of potable water supply for all people across the peninsula and the municipality of Freetown. We are committed – we hope you are all with us.