The Minister of Environment, Prof. Foday Moriba Jaward has handed over the position to head the Agency to the new Executive Chairman of the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone. The ceremony which took place at the Agency’s Headquarters in Freetown was witnessed by a dedicated team of Staff members who will miss the former Executive Chairman. Staff members are however comforted and encouraged by the credentials of Prof. Jaward’s successor in the person of Dr. Bondi Gevao.
Dr. Gevao’s appointment came after the former Executive Chairman was appointed by President Julius Maada Bio to serve as the new Minister of the Environment. Dr. Gevao is an environmental organic chemist with expertise in a number of analytical techniques for measuring contaminants in the environment at trace levels. He has worked on many aspects of the sources and environmental fate of contaminants, studying chemical behaviour in the aquatic and terrestrial environments.
Since his appointment as Head of the EPASL, Prof. Jaward had brought significant changes to the institution. These include the establishment of an Environmental Court in the High Court of Sierra Leone; review of environmental impact assessment processes; alternative livelihood support to rural communities particularly in the agricultural sector, and strengthening of partnerships and environmental education across the country.
The new Executive Chairman was welcomed at the Agency by the Director of the EPASL, Momodu A. Bah. He welcomed Dr. Bondi to the premises of the Agency and further thanked the President of Sierra Leone for his wise decision in appointing Dr. Bondi to serve in the capacity of Executive Chairman of the Agency. He entreated Dr. Gevao to emulate his predecessor’s exemplary leadership qualities in handling the affairs of the Agency.
As Minister of the Environment, Prof. Jaward is expected to oversee the Environment Protection Agency after the EPA Act of 2008 would have been amended. Dr. Jaward thanked all his Staff of the Agency for working with him assiduously in the interest of the country.
The Minister of the Environment, Prof. Foday Moriba Jaward had launched the Sierra Leone Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Coastal Landscape Complex (CCAP) report which sets the framework for a climate change adaptation plan that is geared towards increasing the resilience of coastal communities across Sierra Leone. The launching was done at the British Council Hall in Freetown marking this year’s World Wetlands Day celebration with the theme ‘Wetlands and Biodiversity’.
The study which is now owned by the Government of Sierra Leone was done by the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change programme with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The CCAP offers a mechanism for implementing, tracking, evaluating, and communicating adaptation actions and results, which are critical to the climate change adaptation plan’s overall success.
As a party to the Ramsar Convention, Sierra Leone joins the world to celebrate World Wetlands Day to remind all about the inextricable relationship that humans and wetlands share. Apart from being a natural habitat for marine species, wetlands also provide clean water, carbon storage, promote tourism, support human health and boost economies.
Before launching the report, the Environment Minister reechoed that the destruction of wetlands and other ecologically sensitive areas cannot be allowed to continue unabated adding that the fight to sustainably manage our wetlands is not a ‘one man’s fight’.
He said ‘the fight to protect wetland biodiversity heralded a significant milestone with the signing of the Ramsar Convention in the Iranian city of Ramsar on 2nd February 1971. Since 1997, the world has continued to celebrate the signing of the convention annually as a way of raising public awareness about the immense benefits that we derive from wetlands and also about the importance of conserving wetlands as well as their wise use’.
He noted that ‘the rampant display of disregard for wetlands is manifested in several ways; these include but not limited to cutting down of mangroves which are a form of carbon sink and breeding ground for fish; construction of buildings in wetland areas; unsustainable mining; embankments, dumping of waste and the use of hazardous chemicals like mercury and other pollutants’ which had led to a rapid decrease in marine life, significant water shortages, flooding and climate change.
According to the Minister, ‘the Sierra Leone River Estuary, which includes the Aberdeen Creek, is the only wetland area in Sierra Leone recognized under the Ramsar convention. It is disturbing to note that the Aberdeen Creek and other wetlands across the country have suffered massive encroachment by members of the public despite series of government actions against these encroachers. These government actions include the reforestation of the Aberdeen creek and the series of engagements with councils for the protection of wetlands in their respective cities and towns especially Bo and Makeni which are prone to flooding’.
He also said that the government of His Excellency the President, Rtd. Brigadier Dr. Julius Madaa Bio attaches great importance to the protection of the environment which includes protection of wetlands adding that the creation of the new Ministry of Environment is a testament to his unwavering commitment to sustainable environmental protection and governance in Sierra Leone.
He reiterated that the adequate supply of pipe borne water particularly to residents in the Western Area continues to face serious challenges for government as well as the wanton destruction of wetlands being a major contributor to the perineal issue of water shortage in the country. He said ‘people continue to encroach on water catchment areas notwithstanding that some of these catchment areas are located in protected areas.
However, the new Ministry of the Environment is presently collaborating with other MDAs like the Ministry of Water Resources, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Country Planning, the Environment Protection Agency, the National Protected Area Authority and the Guma Valley Water Company in other to work out sustainable solutions to resuscitate depleted water catchment areas.
The Government of Sierra Leone through the newly created Ministry of the Environment have played host to the African Environment and Wangari Maathai day 2020 with the theme ‘our resources – our future”. The Day which was commemorated on the 3rd March 2020 at the Miatta Conference Center attracted guests from across the African region as well as the host country.
African Environment Day, celebrated annually on 3 March, was established by the Organization of African Unity in 2002 as a way of raising awareness on the pressing environmental challenges facing the continent. Since 2012, the African Environment Day has been celebrated in conjunction with Wangari Maathai Day, in order to pay tribute to the late Nobel Laureate’s green legacy.
The relevance of having the African Environmental Day commemoration in Sierra Leone, inter alia, is that it will lead to increased awareness on the challenges facing our environment; enhance sustainable management of resources for sustainable development; sensitization and awareness raising on women’s access to land and other natural resources which hitherto, has been encumbered by the inequitable use of natural resources; expose the country to more tourist attractions as well as foreign direct investment and strengthens cooperation on several Multilateral Environment Agreements to which Sierra Leone is a party.
The African Environment Day celebration is supported by the African Union and the Government of Sierra Leone and its partners. The theme for the celebration of this day also draws attention to the enormous opportunities that Africa has in the sustainable management of its natural resources.
The Chief Minister of Sierra Leone, Prof. David J. Francis served as the Keynote Speaker during the commemoration. While he was delivering his statement on behalf of His Excellency the President, he said Sierra Leone’s hosting of the 2020 edition of the African Environment and Wangari Maathai Day celebrations was a clear manifestation of the fact that the country was stable and peaceful. Emphasizing on the theme of the celebration, Prof. Francis said ‘our strategic resources in the continent have not been beneficial to us in the continent’ and stressed that with a concerted effort, there was hope for the future. Prof. Francis added that the theme which focuses on the natural resources aimed at addressing the numerous environmental challenges facing the continent.
Prof. Wangari Maathai had played a great role in the world the world in general and Africa in particular in terms of environmental management and sustainability. Prof. Francis called on fellow Africans to adopt the legacies of the first African Woman to have won the Nobel Peace Price.
To demonstrate the seriousness on issues of environment and national development in the country, the President of Sierra Leone, H.E Dr. Julius Maada Bio established the Ministry of environment to ensure environmental sustainability and Prof. Francis said with the leadership and caliber of Dr. Foday M. Jaward at the new environment Ministry, the Sierra Leonean environment can be managed well.
In his welcome address, the Minister of the Environment, Prof. Jaward said Sierra Leone was proud as a nation to host the African Environment Day. Stressing on the need for change and adopt new measures towards the environment, Prof. Jaward said as Africans, ‘we have come to terms with the fact that we cannot continue with business as usual’. He said natural resource exploitation without regard for environmental protection is detrimental and therefore called Africa to act now.
He commented that Women played a key role in the management of natural resources but that often times they had been the ones left behind in taking actions towards environmental protection. He applauded the AU Commission for taking resolutions that would ensure the inclusion of women in the protection of the environment.
There is still a gender gap that inhibits women in terms of their productive role in environment governance. Prof. Jaward said closing that gap will foster economic growth in developing countries.
Her Worship the Mayor of the Freetown Municipality, Madam Yvone Aki Sawyer said in other to combat Climate Change and other social challenges I’m the country, the Freetown City Council was already in preparation to plant about a million trees in the city annually.
The Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission, H. E. Ambasador Josefa Sacko said Africa’s most extractive industries had sparked controversies in environmental management and had contributed to the devastation of the environment and economic structures. He said Africa doesn’t need to borrow from anyone if ‘we manage our resources well’. He added that the value of overseas development aid does not equate to the resources in Africa, adding that sustainable management of ‘our land and water resources will take us a long way towards environmental management’. He congratulated the Minister of the Environment and the government of Sierra Leone for hosting the African Environment Program this year which clearly shows the seriousness of the government of Sierra Leone towards addressing environmental issues. The celebrations would come to a conclusion on Wednesday 4th March with a tour of some key ecological sites within the Western Area.