On the re-opening of SLPP Office … “We would never encourage violence” John Benjamin...

Sierra Leone News: Seaweed is overtaking Lumley beach, driving away tourism

Youth cleaning the beach

Youth cleaning the beach

Lumley Beach was bustling with activity on Thursday as a small army of volunteers and laborers worked to clear away the piles of seaweed that covered the golden sands of the beach. Officials say the seaweed is an environmental problem, and threatens to drive away tourist from one of the country’s premier destinations for visitors.
“The beach is one of our attractions. This is what brings tourists into this country, and this is what makes even local tourism develop,” said Yassin Kargbo, General Manager for Sierra Leone’s National Tourist Board, taking a break from raking seaweed on the beach. “When you have a situation like this, it makes people not come. It sends them away from the beach.”
Kargbo was one of several government officials out on Lumley Beach helping to gather the masses dull green-yellow seaweed into piles. The seaweed would then be either buried in large holes (a technique used in the United States, Brazil and Mexico according to Kargbo), which workers were also working on digging further up the beach. Because there was too much to bury, some seaweed was also carted away in trucks.
Fighting the seaweed’s steady invasion can feel like a losing battle.
“The biggest challenge is that now we are cleaning, and by tomorrow you will see another blanket of seaweed along the beach, as if we haven’t done anything,” Kargbo said.
The seaweed is not hazardous to human health, according to Kargbo  but it may be hazardous to tourism, and by extension, local business.
Across the road from the beach, the Leone Hotel, normally a lively place filled with locals and tourists alike, was utterly empty and dark on Thursday morning. Chernor Ali Conteh, operations caretaker for the hotel, said the seaweed was partly to blame.
“Our most important product we have to sell to the guests, apart from the rooms is our beachfront,” he said. “It’s been affecting us very seriously since it started coming. As you can see presently, there’s no business.”
The last time the Leone had a guest was three weeks ago, Conteh said. Normally, crews of cleaners do a good job clearing the beach of rubbish every day. But they just couldn’t keep up with the seaweed. Conteh hopes that business will pick up by September or early October.
“I just want to plead with the government…let them come in fully and help,
Because it’s all about Sierra Leone, it’s all about tourism and business, employment for people. Let come in that big manner so that this problem will be cleared once and for all.”
Seaweed comes to Lumley Beach every year during the rainy season, but this year is worse, said Sidie Yahya Tunis, Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, standing amid piles of it.
“Before we used to see it during August, September, but this year it started early. By June we already started seeing seaweed on the beach” he said.
The process of cleaning will take weeks, or even months, Tunis said. The Ministry of Tourism has approached the Ministry of Finance to see if they can get ahold of one or two machines that can automate the process of clearing the seaweed from the beach.
Until then, it will have to be cleared manually, pile by pile. Between 50 and 100 people work every day to keep the beach seaweed-free, said Tunis.
Among the many volunteers on Thursday was an APC women’s organization. “It’s not easy, but we are trying our level best to get the beach as it was before,” said Sarah Jalloh, chairwoman of the group.
“This is a national issue,” Kargbo said. “We’re asking everybody…to come in and assist us in the cleaning of our beaches.”
By Chetanya Robinson
Friday July 29, 2016

Comments are closed.