The Government of Sierra Leone has declared the Otamba Kilimi National Park (OKNP) in the Tambaka Chiefdom, Karene District, a protected area, but unfortunately, there is rampant and indiscriminate logging of timber going on right now within the park and its buffer zone for the past four years, removing most of the ‘Rosewood’ for export to China, in spite the fact that the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA) has sent soldiers to stop all the illegal logging.
During a recent visit, this reporter saw loggers all over the community in Fintonia, Samaya and other places with trucks, gathering logs transporting them to Freetown for onward shipment to China.
As one resident observed, “loggers and logging are everywhere you go in the community. It is unbelievable as if the government has forgotten the fact that Sierra Leone is the second most vulnerable country to climate change after Guinea Bissau.”
The former Resident Minister, North/West, was fired for being too vocal in putting an end to this carnage with the country’s national park and was replaced by Alhaji Alpha Khan, but recently he lifted the ban and hundreds of people, lorries and trailers have been flooding into the OKNP to remove all the timber with impunity and reckless abandon.
This act is perpetrated by people in high places in collaboration with locals and foreigners and now the European Union funded-project at OKNP wants to pull out, although it is planning to engage the government at the highest level to end this act of deforestation.
According to a senior Western diplomat in Freetown, signing of declarations/treaties/agreements to mitigate climate change and fooling the Kenyan wildlife experts to help revive the OKNP as eco-tourism destination as well as the South Africans (both delegations were recently in the country) to bring investors for wildlife tourism development are all mockery, highlighting that destruction of Sierra Leone’s environment is continuing in full swing and that deforestation of the north of the country is a true scenario that cannot be overstated and underestimated.
The diplomat further observed that loggers are ruining the country for generations yet unborn, lamenting that this is a total mockery of the recent Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, as people are damaging everything with all their might. He went on to say that there will be no more deforestation in the country after 2039 simply because there won’t be any more trees standing.
A concerned citizen asked: “what is the meaning of a national park, that is supposed to have the highest level of state protection and therefore absolutely no sort of logging or mining should take place there as is the case in serious counties? What is the government, especially the Environmental Protection Agency, NPAAA and the Ministry of Agriculture doing or are they turning a blind eye to this disastrous and imminent danger?”
The citizen continued: “what is the meaning of signing declarations/ agreements/treaties to protect Sierra Leone’s environment when it is the complete opposite that is happening? Did the Resident Minister North/West consult the other government institutions/agencies before encouraging loggers to enter our national park? Serious desertification of the OKNP landscape is real and will leave the community very vulnerable to climate change and other natural disasters.”
Concluding, the citizen appealed to the government to honour its international obligations to climate change treaties/agreements signed to prevent devastating consequences for the country.