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Sierra Leone News: Beaches under attack from sand miners

Beaches along Lakka, Tokeh, Lumley and Aberdeen, amongst others, face challenges from climate change to damaging human activities, including sand mining. Twenty-four hours a day, seven-days-a-week, truckloads of sand are being hauled from the beach into Freetown to satisfy the needs of construction companies and contractors. Hundreds of tonnes of sand from the beaches is mined and sold to builders as construction material. The activity is technically illegal but laws, as is often the case, are not being implemented or enforced. During an awareness raising campaign, the Programme Regulation Officer at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), James Kamara, said they have engaged authorities of the Western Rural District Council in order to minimise the mining activities in that part of the country. He said, “We have temporarily put some measures in place and instead of sand mining activities on a daily basis, we have agreed for it to be done only three times a week, which are Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s and Saturday’s and from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.” Kamara said the level of sand mining activities in the country is contributing greatly to some of the disasters the country is facing and called on the people to minimise the activities of sand mining in order to protect the environment. In the village of Lakka, whole stretches of coastline are littered with the remains of buildings whose foundations have been washed from underneath as a result of sand mining. Balu Kargbo lives just a few feet away from a cliff of loose sand at the edge of Hamilton Beach, 8 km from Freetown. She is very concerned about the threat to her home but, like her neighbours, she cannot afford to move. “The beach is getting shorter all the time,” she says. “Sand-mining is a calamity for the tourism industry,” said the EPA. “Anywhere in the world, sand is the resource of tourism, but now our beaches are being degraded.” But there are concerns that the sand mining is jeopardizing John Obey village, which is an ecotourism project associated with TribeWanted activities. The deep rumble of the trucks can be clearly heard through the night while new rocks have appeared on the beach as the sand is stripped away. The neighbouring village of Bureh has long been a magnet for Freetown residents looking to take a break from the city. Consequently, a decision was taken not to mine sand there. But the effects of sand-removal from nearby John Obey have had a dramatic effect on the beach at Bureh. “The sea turtles didn’t come either this year.” The beaches are owned by the government of Sierra Leone thereby making the sand public property, and this has led to the mad rush for sand. There is presently a policy on the use of Sierra Leone’s natural resources but there is no specific policy on the use of the sand at the country’s natural beaches.A sand Miner Abu Kuyateh said, “Even though we survived from mining, but I think the protection of the environment is key even for our own well-being.”

MJB/17/10/18

By Mohamed J. Bah

Thursday October 18, 2018.

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