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.