Unregulated Housing Worsens Deforestation and Climate Change in Sierra Leone

By Allieu Sahid Tunkara

At the hills of Reservation View, of Allen Town in Freetown, a forested environment has been cleared and the land exposed to sun rays and gully erosion.

The affected community has been rendered hot and dusty. No tree to provide the shade for one to enjoy a siesta after a fiesta.

Most, If not all, houses there are ramshackle buildings made of mud dug from the earth. The buildings are the handworks of low income earners residing.

Orbai Kamara is one of those residents hoodwinked into the trail of environmental destruction in the community. He is currently erecting a bungalow there, a project that has compelled the young man to fall down most of the trees hitherto used as a forest cover.

Five boys were employed to carry out the bid and are currently digging the soil to construct over a thousand bricks at the expense of the environment.

Lamin Kamara is one of the workers employed to construct the mud-walled bungalow. He told Nightwatch they earn a daily wage for their construction service. “I am paid Le 1,000 for every brick I make. Ten bricks go for Le 10, 000. It is better than to sit down doing nothing,” Kamara said. Other boys also work with Kamara in the construction exercise and receive similar wage.

The mud bricks represent the cheap bungalows they erect at the expense of the environment

 

The Reservation View of Allen Town is just an epitome of other communities that have succumbed to similar fates of environmental destruction. Mount Aureol, Moyiba and Hastings communities among many others are prominent cases of environmental damage.

These communities were once forested and water catchment areas. Today, those forests are virtually non-existent as hamlets, makeshift bungalows and tents have replaced them.

Guma Valley Water Company is an institution responsible for the provision of water in Freetown. The institution finds it extremely difficult to live up to its obligations. Water shortages in Freetown are widespread and almost uncontrollable. The agency officials have always attributed the shortages to the depletion of the forests, which they say were: “Water catchment and sources of water.”

The indicators are clear that unregulated housing has is worsening deforestation of communities. The influx of migrants who have added to an exploded Freetown population has increased the quest for land. In most communities in Freetown, houses are constructed without recourse to government officials responsible for the allocation of land.

Freetown City Council (FCC), the highest political institution in the municipality says, through its spokesperson, that FCC has no responsibility in the allocation of land to builders. The council says it plays a major role in the naming of streets and enforcing law and order in the municipality.

Various communities in Freetown are no longer safe from the threats of deforestation which has a close linkage with climate in Sierra Leone.

Deforestation which is endemic in Freetown has been replicated rural communities. Towns and villages no longer take pride in the green forests they previously had. They have been taken away by indiscriminate tree felling and coal burning.

A shining example is seen at Magbafth village few kilometres to the Northern town of Lunsar in PortLoko district. The village once covered with forests and gardens is now exposed to sun rays and thunderstorms. The Beautiful garden on the roadside has been cleared with no planting of trees to replace the depleted forest.

The owner, Pa Abdulai Sesay had passed away years back. His children had inherited the land and constructed ramshackle buildings there. The eldest son, Idrissa Sesay told Nightwatch the garden was “very productive” as it produced fruits such as mangoes, pineapples, guavas among others from which the residents survive. “Apart from the fruits, there were big trees that provided boards for building purposes. These trees have been cut down including the fruit trees,” he said. “Now the community is getting hotter every day,” he added.

Burning down of bushes along the highways is not uncommon. Residents along villages on the highways do not hesitate to set fire on bushes to stave off the trouble of brushing. The smoke released in the atmosphere is toxic and poses threat to health. Sometimes, vehicles caught in the scene are burnt down since petroleum is flammable.

Few years back, highly industrialized countries converged in Denmark to discuss issues of climate change in the world. The meeting dubbed the “Copenhagen Conference” captured the attention of countries with the most advanced economies in the world- United States and China.

These countries are known to be the most industrialized nations in the world and are highly likely to produce the most dangerous pollutant for the human planet.

The two highly industrialized countries, during the summit, pledged to cut down 20% of their carbon emissions into the ozone layer to preserve the earth. Lowering their carbon emissions means a decrease in their manufacturing and productive activities. However, the two countries caught in a cut-throat economic competition renege on their pledge and the earth bears the brunt.

Evidence of renege on the cut down of carbon emissions by the two world powers is showcased by the several climate change conferences that followed the ‘Copenhagen Conference.’

African countries, including Sierra Leone, were also part of the conference to cut down the emissions. However, the continent’s low industrialization status made it less dominant in the conference deliberations. But, considering the traditional methods of farming characterized by shifting cultivation, African forests have been devastated.

Against the backdrop deforestation, Africa was also compelled to commit itself to uphold the climate change conference resolutions. The continent’s commitment though a bit different from the Western and Middle Eastern nations, was to cut down on farming and to reserve the forests. The commitment led to the compensation of Africa with aid money as agriculture is a means of survival in the continent.

Africa signed up to the document and received the aid money. The ‘Copenhagen Conference’ resulted into the promulgation of forest reserve policies to ensure a green environment. The policy was thwarted by the absence of comprehensive communication strategy to inform the people that the world no longer tolerates environmental degradation through farming.

Traditional rulers outside the nation’s capital are always at loggerheads with forest officials deployed in the provinces. The latter are inclined to enforce government forest policies while the former are bent on making money for chiefdom coffers through the sale of trees to loggers and sawyers. The conflict between the two is a never-ending one.

Thus, the government is constantly reminded about its commitment to the ‘Copenhagen Conference’ to ensure a green environment.

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