A Green Freetown; Going Dry.
By Sulaiman Stom Koroma.
During the 90’s, before some of us came back to Freetown or was opportune to have the Foday Sankoh Visa, Freetown was such a beautiful town, with green all over the hills and forest areas. The dams were always ready to provide water for the inhabitants of Freetown, even during the dries water is always in abundance for the people of Freetown.
Meanwhile there were many forest reserves and protected areas, which were no go areas or prohibited to do any human activities like deforestation, building of houses or for hunting. You hardly hear of flooding, mud or landslides. The land was fertile and always productive, the green in Freetown and other areas was so massive that green was included in the national flag representing our forest and agriculture.
After the war, 90% of those that came to Freetown never returned, some because of the job opportunities in Freetown which could not be provided for them were they came from, and for others it was a discovery of a new home. As years go by, housing became a problem, that saw a tremendous increase in the cost of “house rent”. Many people who could not afford the huge cost of “house rent”; turn to the forest areas as solution.
Soon there were massive destruction of the forest either by people searching for land to build houses or by those destroying the forest to make money through coal processing. The destructions became a concern as the green belt was deeply encroached, in no time there were houses all over the hills, the beautiful forest was no more, deforestation became the order of the day, the hills can no longer provide water for the people.
To stop all this, the idea of setting up the Environmental Protection Agency became a necessity. So in 2008 the Environmental Protection Agency act was established and became operational in 2009. It was established with the goal of creating and enforcing a strict regulatory framework for environmental regulations in Sierra Leone. Part of it mandate involves formulating a national climate change policy and establishing a national secretariat for climate change, which became operational in 2012.
Since its formation EPA-SL has engage different communities through sensitisations to tell them the dangers and disadvantages of living in slum areas, or those engaged in the massive deforestation of the reserve areas. EPA-SL has also been working with other stakeholders to ensure they reintroduce the idea of planting trees, but more importantly discourage them from cutting trees, and not to go beyond the green belt.
Although some people remain adamant in adhering to the call, there has been massive improvement in community engagement and sensitization on deforestation and the concept of planting trees. With the huge pace in which EPA-SL in going about it, it is certain that the idea of planting trees will become a practice once again.