By Mohamed Massaquoi
The Government under the leadership of President Julius Maada Bio has gazetted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Forestry Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Metrological Department, formally of the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA) to start operating under the Ministry of the Environment. This latest move is considered to be part of the strategy to harmonize activities of Government agencies for effective service delivery.
Professor Foday M Jaward, the Minister of the Environment disclosed this transformation during a regional consultative meeting for the review of environmental regulations and policies in Sierra Leone.
During meetings held in Port Loko, Makeni, Bo and Kenema, stakeholders from various institutions including Paramount Chiefs, District and City Council Chairpersons and environmentalists, extensively discussed the EPA, NPAA and Forestry Acts respectively.
The objective of bringing all the interrelated institutions together for concerted engagements is to ensure proper coordination for effective service delivery.
The Minister of Environment in his address stated that over the years, successive Governments have not treated environmental issues deservingly, maintaining that with the establishment of the Environment Ministry by President Julius Maada Bio, more commitments have been made by Government and other agencies to change the situation.
He noted that now is the moment that the Government has placed premium on environmental issues considering them as significant in the development of the country. He told them that President Bio strongly believes in addressing the needs of the people in all sectors.
Held at Port Loko, the national consultative conference on environmental regulations enabled residents and local authorities to fully participate and share their views in the process.
Dilating on the transformation of the environmental division which started as a small outfit at the Ministry of Transport, Minister Jaward expressed his personal satisfaction with the current expansion and thanked everyone for their participation in the process.
He informed how they intend to plant five million trees across the country and encouraged those present to participate in the process by filling in and forwarding the application documents in order to get onboard.
Representing UNDP at the conference, Andrew Katta said Sierra Leone is endowed with a variety of natural resources including lowland rainforest, mountain forest, freshwater, swamps, coastal and marine ecosystems. He however went on to lament the irrational use of the environment and our natural resources which he said has, over the years, resulted in environmental degradation leading to flooding, windstorm, landslides, erosion and wildfire, causing disasters around the country.
Andrew Katta said cutting down of trees in catchment areas have resulted in water shortages particularly in the Western Area which hosts 1.5 million people.
He concluded by expressing the active desire on the part of the UNDP to strengthen its partnership with the Ministry of Environment and to ensure that their set goals are achieved for the overall benefit of the Sierra Leonean people.