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Sierra Leone News: Green Scenery expresses concern over lifting of timber export ban

The Sierra Leone government lifted the ban on timber exports on 27 June 2018. The lifting of the ban has caused concern for environmentalists and civil society organizations working on environment issues. Green Scenery, an environmental advocacy group, took exception to the lifting of the timber export ban.
The ban, which was announced on 9th of April 2018 was welcomed by environmentalists. Deforestation in Sierra Leone had taken alarming dimensions with an approximated 3% forest cover left as estimated by some experts.
The government has allowed shipment of 13,000 containers. The volume of wood stocked in the containers, each forty feet long, situated at the Hastings Airfield is not only colossal in quantity, but despicably embarrassing for a country with now 3% forest cover.
Green Scenery called on the new government to protect the environment by making the ban permanent. “We urgently need a new direction that will lead to reforestation and a stop of deforestation,” said Joseph Rahall, Director of the environmental NGO, Green Scenery.
While other countries protect their natural resources, logs have been persistently shipped from Sierra Leone over the past ten years and Sorius Samora’s documentary in 2011 is a testament to this assertion.
A recent video shared on social media graphically documented stockpiles of logs in the Hastings Airfield axis raising public emotions on the environmental damage already caused by logging. Put together, the approximately 13,000 containers to be exported, the 893 containers at the Quay awaiting shipment, the stockpile of logs at the Hastings Airfield, and the un-quantified logs exported in the past can be aptly referred to as ‘ecocide’ (ecological genocide).
Most of the species extracted largely come from Northern Sierra Leone where climatic conditions are drier and Savannah-like, and by UN Convention to Combat Desertification definition, desert-like. Worrisome, also is that some of the species are not of coppice nature and therefore have no chance to rejuvenate. “Except we take on exceptional measures Sierra Leone and future generations stand to lose against the interest of logging companies and governments who are desperate to generate revenue by all means,” fears Joseph Rahall.
In the government press release, the status of the logs to be shipped is not clear, whether confiscated or not. It is also not clear how much revenue this massive shipment will attract. Furthermore, the country is yet to be informed if the ban will be re-established. Green Scenery urges the government to clarify these concerns and to make permanent the ban on logging. Sierra Leone has lost so much of its natural endowments that the government must put measures in place to ensure they benefit future.
Kandeh Yumkella, a Member of Parliament representing Constituency 062, Samu Chiefdom, Kambia District recently said President Maada Bio has ordered the temporary lifting of the ban, imposed some weeks ago, on the export of timber from our country.
When the President imposed the temporary ban, the NGC applauded his move because the Party believed that his move was an outward manifestation of the “New Direction’s” concern about the wanton destruction of our forests by foreign operators working in cahoots with unscrupulous citizens and the urgent need to immediately intensify enforcement of existing forest conservation laws.
“Our optimism and faith in the determination of President Bio’s Government to move quickly to arrest the unbridled destruction of our county’s ecosystem was justified.”
He also said the Speaker of Parliament confirmed our optimism a week ago when he called on and encouraged Members of Parliament to view the film “Land That We Love” which chronicles the crisis of decades of deforestation in Sierra Leone.
As the Leader of the NGC Parliamentary Group, “I decided to visit the old Hastings Airport on Sunday, 24 June 2018. On the way, I discovered to my utter chagrin, several locations along the Wellington-Masiaka highway that serve as staging grounds for the illegal export of lumber from Sierra Leone.”
He stated these are some of the many graveyards for our forests.
Credible research on deforestation in Sierra Leone according to the NGC leader estimates that during the past few years, our country exported 3,000-4,000 containers every six months, which is equivalent to thousands of acres of forest cover that is lost.
Given that each container sells for $4,000 USD in Freetown and bought for $15,000 USD overseas, 1000 containers will fetch $15 million USD whilst 4,000 containers will generate $60 million USD of economic value that is lost.
Some of this wealth, he said, could have been captured if our country had a clearly defined policy and strategies for local value-addition by manufacturing furniture for export or domestic use.
“The NGC would like to believe that this negative mindset of “quick riches” at the expense of the environment will change, and that the New Direction Government is willing and ready to mitigate the current rate of deforestation.”
He said the NGC party therefore calls on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to introduce and enforce more stringent forest protection measures, accelerate the tree planting programs, and teach our people to understand the nexus between sustainable forest management and the protection of ecosystems and water basins. If these measures are not put in place, the current free-for-all and madness of lumber exports will lead to greater environmental calamity for the next generation.
The NGC estimates that the proposed temporary lifting of the ban to export 13,000 containers should yield about $195 million USD.
The NGC also calls on the Government to assure the Country that there is a sunset clause for the lifting of the ban and to indicate exactly when the final ban will come into force again.
By Saidu Bah
Thursday July 05, 2018.

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