Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma
Launching of the Sierra Leone Western Area
Peninsula Forest Reserve and its Watershed
Friday March 19, 2010I feel honored to be here today to launch this all important project. Our country got its name from these lion shaped mountains. Preventing its destruction is equivalent to preventing our nation from catastrophe. These mountains provide water for the city of Freetown and its environs; these forests and mountains sloping down to the most beautiful beaches in the world would make our nation a prime touristic destination; these mountain are unique in West Africa, from Morocco to Cameroon, there is no other piece of land with mountains rising up to almost 1 km from sea level. But today these mountains, these forests, the streams and beaches are under a grave threat. Land grabbing, tree felling, illegal construction on steep slopes, uncontrollable sand mining and stone breaking are turning these protective mountains into disasters waiting to happen. The survival of Freetown, which contains over a quarter of our population, is on the line.
I have seen the destruction from the air, I have observed the devastation from the sea, driving through Freetown and the Peninsula I am alarmed by the level of deforestation and the possibilities of landslides and the washing away of coastlines by the sea. We must put a stop to this. We must reverse this trend. We must save the water sources of Freetown. Guma depends on these mountains; our development of the Orugu basin to provide water for the teeming population of the capital makes it imperative to conserve the peninsula. This EU funded project is an important step in this direction. It ties in with my government commitment to ensure an environmental turn-around in this country.
My government has initiated many actions to ensure an environmental turnaround. From the establishment of the Gola Forest Peace Park to the recent action to stop the export of Timber; from our actions to build mini-hydro electric projects to provide sustainable energy in all districts to our establishment of the Sierra Leone Environmental Protection Agency, we are showing our commitment to bringing an environmental turn-around in this country. In 2009, I assigned my Vice-President to establish a Task Force for the protection of the Western Peninsula Forest and I also mobilized the Office of National Security (ONS) to support the Forestry Division in restricting further encroachments into the forest. Today we are re-affirming our commitment to turning around the environmental fortunes of our country by inaugurating the EU funded project for the “Conservation of the Western Area Peninsula Forest Reserve & its Watershed.”
I am therefore very keen in seeing the demarcation of the Forest Reserve taking place and zonal management plans being developed under this project.
I am equally looking forward in seeing the social benefits and rewards of sustainable resource management coming to the local communities and government. The creation of employment and income generation opportunities through alternative livelihood schemes, adapted technologies, energy efficient methods, and the promotion of eco-tourism, as foreseen under this project, is highly appreciated.
Furthermore, I am glad that the project plans to pilot pro-poor financing mechanisms for forest conservation, as outlined in the Copenhagen Protocol of the UN Conference on Climate Change in December 2009. The role of the Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), and the need to provide positive incentives to such action is crucial, to enable the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries.
Finally, environmental education and awareness creation has to be stepped up throughout the society, since only well-informed and responsible citizens will take care of safeguarding our forests for future generations.
I can assure you that me, and my government, are fully committed to the objectives of the project and the conservation of our last remaining natural forests. Let me also take this opportunity to applaud the EU and other partners for supporting our conservation initiatives. Together we can transform this country into a paradise of bio-diversity, eco-tourism, and sustainable environmental practices. WE must succeed; the survival of our capital city, our lion mountains and the entire country and the world depends on projects like this.
But let me also use this occasion to appeal to the big environmental polluters in the World to halt practices that degrade the global commons. The world is hotter than a decade ago; weather patterns are becoming more erratic, disturbing the livelihoods of millions of our farmers. Whilst we are inaugurating programs to ensure a sustainable environment, let us also work to ensure that countries like ours do not continue to reap environmental hazards we did not sow
I believe that together we can save the environment. Together we save the water sources of Freetown; together we can save our beautiful beaches, our crystal clear streams, and our bio-diversity. I thank you for attending this important event and I hereby officially launch the WAPFoR project.