Environment Minister says Deforestation is a threat to water supply

Professor Foday Moriba Jaward, Minister of Environment

By Edward Vamboi

Professor Foday Moriba Jaward, Minister of Environment has held discussions with key heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) at his Old Railway Line Office in Freetown last week, to address long standing challenges facing water catchment areas in the country, particularly in the Western Area which has a population of about 2 million people.

Largescale cutting down of trees, construction of buildings and other environmentally unsustainable practices, in and around the capital city’s water catchment area – according to experts, accounts for some of the main reasons why Freetown is plagued with water shortages – particularly during the dry season, heads of MDAs were told.

The discussions were held at the request of Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, with the aim of heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies working together to formulate a plan of action to protect water catchment areas in the country that are under threat.

Addressing heads of MDAs, Minister Jaward spoke of the need to work together to save the people of Sierra Leone from further environmental disasters, adding that deforestation, encroachment on wetlands, climate change and other factors are posing significant threats to the protection of water catchment areas, thereby causing serious water shortages in the country.

He further stated that it is as a result of the forgoing reasons that the Government has given a directive for the setting up of an inter-ministerial team to come up with a well-defined sustainable strategy that would help to ameliorate the suffering caused by water shortages.

In response to this emergency, three sub-committees have been set up and assigned with tasks. Sub-committee 1 will identify water catchment areas within the Western Area for policing, while sub-committees 2 and 3 will conduct community engagement and public relations respectively.

All committees have carried out preliminary tasks and have reported back to the general committee on their findings. The report of sub-committee 1 in particular presented a grim picture of the level of encroachment and deforestation that has taken place over the years. It found that human activity is a key factor causing environmental degradation in and around water catchment areas.

Sub-committees 2 and 3 have also begun the process of community mobilization, sensitization and awareness raising – particularly in communities that are within the water catchment areas.

The committee’s report is being prepared and would subsequently be presented to the Vice President, detailing a number of recommendations as to the necessary measures that are to be taken.

The meeting was also attended by the Minister of Water Resources, the Deputy Minister of Environment, the Managing Director of Guma Valley Water Company, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, the Director of Environmental Protection Agency.

But notable by his absence was the Minister of Lands – Dennis Sandy, whose ministerial brief under the previous APC government and the current government is to oversee building construction activities in the country, especially in protected State lands.

Critics say that Minister Sandy must be held accountable for the massive deforestation that has and continues to take place in Freetown under his watch, during the past ten years.



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