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Sierra Leone News: Who Cares For Our Environment?

When some years back an international research declared Sierra Leone the Third most prone disaster Country, I thought we will take heed as a nation. But “No” our Institutions or Bodies in the Environment sector cannot do more never mind the floods and landslides with high death toll. The tree planting exercise done recently is commendable, but it is just a wee part of disaster risk reduction in a wholesome way.
We might go up to the roof tops, hill tops and even up Mount Sugar Loaf, the hightest point in the Western Area, and shout about accountability, transparency, credibility, human rights and what have you; the key point that has always gnawed at us is the poor functionality of our systems and institutions. The plain blunt fact is that we as a nation are down where we are mostly because of the systemic rottenness of our institutions. You can shame me If you like by saying that 50 % of our institutions are functioning well. Just look around! This is why we have been having environmental disasters. If all the sectors responsible for protecting our environment have been doing their work diligently, we would not have been at the magnitude at which our disasters have been.
I know many institutions might claim that there is political interference here and there which is weakening them, but like someone once said, the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they have none. In this 21st century characterized by technological advancement and free speech, one hardly has an excuse to refuse to search for knowledge and refuse to speak out on issues that affect their very existence.
Most of our problems are mainly systemic ones. Rotten systems have so entrenched themselves that today it is so difficult to upturn it. This is not to say that there are no honest and hard working people in some of our institutions, but no sooner they demonstrate that they want to take the narrow path, than they are corrupted by the majority to tow the rotten line. There are very few people you can class as the last guys standing. Our problem is that they easily get corrupted and you wonder where all their principles went.
Our continent Africa remains to be a very important and interesting one that will perhaps ever provide fertile ground for the western philanthropy, humanitarianism, experimentation and neo-colonial adventures. The continent continues to depend on the west for even their general elections, but brags that their countries are doing well on democracy, good governance and human rights. It is a continent where some of her countries export what they do not have and import what they have. They have sold out their vast mineral resources to western multinationals and recently are gracefully selling out their agricultural lands to other multinationals without taking due process in the best interest of the individual countries.
Take our poor little and grossly depraved salone. No matter what efforts our governments take, we end up dropping down the bottom rung of the human development Index (HDI). Civil Society Groups over the years have been looking at the progress in our government’s addressing of our international commitments in human rights. In the area of signing and ratifying treaties, we are fairly doing well as a nation. Where we have problems is following up to see that the legislations are put in practice.
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. I have been looking through some presidential speeches and statements of economic and financial policies. The issue of environment does not come out prominently, so perhaps it is not yet a priority area. This is strange because even the Ebola long stay with us is partly due to the environmental abuse.
Urgently our country has several sectors that should be working to reduce environmental hazards. Key among these is the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), which has 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 there have been many 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 the fact that 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 by Great Dan Moss of the SLBC. It’s so good to listen to it with the predicted doom for this nation with the Krio 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. You see most of our blessings in this country are pathetically also curses. These include the long coastline and fine beaches.
For over fifty years we have not succeeded 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 two steps forward and there 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. This is why some of us are anxious to see the new government succeed.
Are you wondering that Sierra Leone has a long way to go, to have real statesmen? Yah, I think I agree with you. 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? Well so far the New President looks like becoming a Statesman. He is so far matching his words with action.
By Beny Sam
Wednesday June 20, 2018.

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