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Sierra Leone News: Who Cares About The Environment?

ENVIRONSI think that it is high time our authorities in the environment sector know that the life-threatening problems of our Sierra Leone environment cannot be solved by slamming 90-day ultimatums to slum dwellers or holding endless workshops that only serve as distractions.
I often hear jingles on radio about the fact that Sierra Leone is the third most disaster prone country in the world. This really is no more news. What is news is that right under the Peace bridge at Congo Cross, government allowed an expensive house to be built there. Yes…the roof is almost at the level of the four-lane bridge. Houses still sprout in water ways and mangroves along all the Western area creaks.
What an interesting country we are in. In the dry season, we cry for water, in the rainy season we are flood scared. Sometimes I wonder whether we are waiting for another September flood before we get serious. Are we waiting for the floods, to move people to the stadium and then we go cap in hand begging for money to feed them? What a funny country!
Now when the rains come, all the garbage, rubble, debris and what-have-you, right from up the hills rushes down and covers the streets and stop or delay traffic. As a nation we have for so long abandoned our environmental issues that now our very existence is threatened by environmental abuse pursued with reckless abandon.
When you look through some presidential speeches and statements of economic and financial policies, the issue of environmental protection does not come out prominently. Does this mean it is not a priority? This is strange because even Ebola’s long stay with us is partly due to the environmental degradation.
There is an Environment Protection Agency which, among others, has the following functions: formulation of Environmental policies; coordinate activities and serve as communication channel; coordinate activities linked with controlling the generation, treatment, storage, transportation and disposal of industrial waste; the protection and improvement of the quality of the environment; prescribe standards and guidelines relating to environmental pollution; Ensure compliance with any laid down environmental impact assessment procedures in the planning and execution of development projects; Promote studies, research, surveys and analysis for the improvement and protection of the environment and the maintenance of a sound ecological system; Promote the establishment of national environmental standards; act as focal point for all issues concerning environment.
Although they do make efforts as an agency, we are yet to see tangible impacts. With the continuation of environmental degradation on a daily basis especially in the Western Area, the above functions should be broken down to address specific issues. When you move around the city of Freetown you are made to believe that a giant time bomb is ticking down to zero.
All available spaces are being choked with shanty structures that are not fit for human habitation. Even bridges, water ways are not spared. What beats one’s imagination is, like I have said earlier, Sierra Leone is the third most disaster prone country in the world after Bangladesh and Guinea Bissau! The EPA is aware of this and they have long put in a caution notice on radio beautifully done. It’s so good to listen to it with the predicted doom for this nation with the krio/temne word masibo banging like a cluster bomb. Just take a look at the hills overlooking Freetown. Houses have climbed right up to the top of them as if aiming at the heavens.
Our Ebola situation could have been far better if our compatriots were not crowded in those very poor and hazardous wharfs and bays. Where do we start? The 50 years independence celebrations of Salone lined up many projects. We are yet to get a full report on all the moneys pumped into it. Or Can we just say that one has died a corruptional death?
One major issue that is stifling all good intensions in this land is politics. It is almost obvious that those who benefit from political appointments end up near boot-lickers and sycophants. Will they dare bite the finger that feeds them? Oh no, not here. We find it difficult to cooperate to move forward. They often say that if people cross a river in groups, no crocodile will eat them. It is the belief in this that corruption is institutionalized.
We have failed for over fifty years to succeed in meeting our political objectives. If we are not making the same old mistakes we made yesterday, we are making spectacularly new ones, so in effect it is three steps forward and two steps backward. You see no work done at all. Do we have to continue to be satisfied with mediocrity and blame everything on poverty? No, I disagree! We are not even poor; we have all it takes to move us up if those behind the steering wheel are ready for it. May be you need to know why when things go wrong, it is most times the politicians we blame. Why not, when so much power is placed in their hands and they virtually take all the overall decisions that affect our livelihoods. Just see what political will can do. You see when some of the protagonists of the current government told us that Sierra Leone is going to be turned into a works yard; a lot of critics dismissed it and laughed.  Well you might say the government’s projects here and there are just like Sunday Clothes worn for the purpose, but I think they are embarked on in good faith. Some have yielded results. What is not clear is their sustainability.
With the best of roads, with the best of other things, if a comprehensive Environmental Protection Project is not launched, all that will get to naught. Just one disaster will sweep us back another 50 rubbish years.
The term politician has come to drag along many derisive connotations over the years and this has distanced it so much from the term statesman. Statesmen take important parts in the management of state affairs. They are disinterested political leaders. If someone is statesmanlike, that means he or she is gifted with, and showing wisdom and a broad-minded outlook in public affairs. The statesman rides the moral high horse as they say. When we look around today how many of them do we have? How many times do not our people in authority take very erroneous decisions that adversely impinge on our livelihoods?
Our Constitution stipulates that for the purpose of promoting national integration and unity, the state has to do certain things. In the first place it should provide adequate facilities for and encourage free mobility of people, goods and services throughout Sierra Leone. Also the constitution talks about the state’s obligation to protect and defend the liberty of the individual, enforce the rule of Law and ensure the efficient functioning of government services. Here you would not want to feel good about the recklessness with which some state functionaries misuse resources and abuse their powers with outlandish impunity.
Even the foot citizen thinks properties belonging to the state should be misused as if the state was an isolated human being. When the lizard of the homestead fails to do the things its kind is known for, it will be mistaken for the lizard of the farmyard.
By Beny Sam
Tuesday July 12, 2016

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