Black Johnson Beach Project – an environmental disaster waiting to happen – Op ed

Puawui – Dr. Sama Banya: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 May 2021:

In just three years, Sierra Leone has continued to be in the news for the right reasons. That is with the exception of the rubbish that is continually being spat out by Chernor Bah and his so-called Africanist Press. I am sure that every reasonable Sierra Leonean will agree that their motive is to misinform, to ridicule and to expose this government in bad light.

Quite rightly, the SLPP government led by President Julius Maada Bio has refused to be distracted by their unscrupulous propaganda. Only the opposition APC and their blind followers take them seriously.

I do not intend to go into the successful developmental projects undertaken by this government. Armchair critics like Mohamed 3-Drop Sankoh have from time to time criticised the president purely for propaganda reasons, like his recent outburst about president Bio’s overseas trips to his colleagues, when in his words those colleagues have not returned the visit.

Mohamed Sankoh completely ignored the benefit that continues to accrue from such visits but that of course is a slap in his face. But do people like him care when they expose themselves to such ridicule in the hope that they are embarrassing the government?

Agriculture productivity which will ultimately lead to food-self-sufficiency is currently a priority project of President Bio’s government. In the same way the fishing industry is beginning to have a positive impact on our GDP, in addition to providing valuable additional protein to our food security.

I could go on; for example, the proposed Freetown bridge to Lungi, the replacement of outdated colonial ferries with bridges over our rivers will improve travelling and communications beyond measure. (Photo: Dr Sama Banya).

Many people have thought that we should have gone ahead with the Mile-38 airport project. Laudable as the proposal appeared, it would not have the same positive impact as the cumulative benefit of the Lungi bridge.

In the midst of these positive development, comes a press statement that the government has sold or released two hundred and five acres of rainforest and the beach land at Black Johnson Beach to the Chinese, for the purpose of Fish Meal production. In this production process, vast quantity of fish are ground down to make fish pellets for export.

This industrial production according to a group of citizens who are petitioning the government against the proposal is very damaging to the environment. The factories discharge toxic chemicals which destroy the fish breeding ground. This in turn reduces fish stocks for local fishermen as it pollutes both the land and the ocean – killing fish, animals and plants.

The process also wipes out the main local food source. In addition, the industry will pollute the main marine environment and its eco systems that are not only fish breeding grounds but they support wild life species.

Part of the land earmarked is a lagoon during the dry seasons which opens up as a river in the rainy season. The lagoon itself is a breeding ground for many species of fish. It is a nursery from which the young fish then move into the ocean when it opens into a river during the rains and flows into whale bay.

A petition is being sent to His Excellency by the concerned citizens praying on him not to allow this proposed madness. Further information on this matter may be obtained by contacting the Black Johnson landowners group.

Do I need to remind all those who are backing such a proposal of the disastrous environmental impact on our country? Especially the tourism and the very fish industry that it’s supposed to support. Why has no comment been made about any feasibility studies especially its impact on our environment?

Before this article appear in the press, I hope to have interviews with the Minister of the Environment. Our beaches are among the most attractive in the West Coast of Africa. The surrounding forests are an attractive eco-tourism enthusiasts’ delight.

With the construction of the Lungi bridge quite soon, our tourist industry is certain to have an added attraction.  A great advantage of the bridge will be that tour groups and ordinary Sierra Leoneans will no longer depend upon the current unsatisfactory ferry services or the expensive Sea Coach and Sea Birds services to get to and from Lungi.

The positive effects are endless; and now some developers with the sole aim of profit plans to pollute both the marine life and the adjacent forest life.

As a founding member and long serving Honorary President of the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL), I and my colleagues have over the years continued to advocate for the protection, wise and sustainable use of our natural resources. It has been an uphill task, but progress has been steady and President Bio in his wisdom and concern for the environment has created a separate Ministry of the Environment.

Are we going to throw all of this to the wind, just so that we would have a commercial Fish Breeding Industry especially in the area of Black Johnson Beach? My answer is an emphatic No.

I will crave the intervention of His Excellency in order for him to veto the current Fish Breeding proposal. The proponents of the project can look for other areas and bring out suitable feasibility studies.

About the author

Dr Sama Banya is President Emeritus of the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone.

 

9 Comments

  1. Hahaha, Dje, with all due respect, exactly what are you rambling about? I assume you can read and comprehended simple literature. So what is exactly so confusing to you regarding my commentary— which clearly applauded Dr. Banya’s stance on the environment, however, dissented with his allusion of none existing developmental projects taking place, while bashing the Africanist press for reporting on the host of corruption activities taking place under the current regime?

    Geez, these PAOPA diehards — always coming across as elitist and educated, however, never seem to be able to connect the dots. Common sense folks!!

  2. Senesce Junior Boima, thank you for your objectivity, which deserves emulation. Most of us have trouble understanding that being critical politically is not synonymous with abandoning one’s loyalty to a political party. Indeed criticising your own can be of excellent help in that it encourages reflection and possibly a change of direction for the better. Blind loyalty could be dangerous, that’s what the two major political parties thrive on.

  3. Nice try Youn4na. The reality I know for 35+ years of my life is that Dr. Sama Banya has been one of our most dedicated and ardent conservationists. Indeed, I could lapse into the level of awareness he brought to my cub mind and to countless others. I have never cared about Doc’s politics (not as a child, or as an adult) but I can emphatically say he is totally on point. And oh…in writing there is an important element called a preamble.

    Dr. Banya I’m sure, is not talking politics, his theme seems centered around detrimental environmental activity. I think you’re ascribing a political voice to what I -au contraire-believe is a sincere voice from the wilderness of political retirement. Ironically, I rarely hear any of my senior statesmen commenting on issues that are pertinent to preserving Sierra Leone’s heritage. Please don’t stifle this voice.

  4. Dr Banya has written as a member of SLPP, and it is his right to do so; I would fight, both verbally and physically for him to uphold that right. If President Bio does have all the impressive projects going, mentioned by Dr Banya, he has a funny way of informing Sierra Leoneans about them by keeping silent. The President’s communication team also seems to be totally lost and confused. I completely disagree with Dr Banya that Chernor Bar and the Africanist Press have been spewing rubbish, considering one major impact they have had on Bio: He is on recess from his constant overseas travelling which has been costing the nation huge sums of money through the use of hired jets. I also wish to draw Dr Banya’s attention to President Bio’s rather insufficient and unconvincing response to claims made by the Africanist Press.

    May I also hijack Dr Banya’s attention and momentarily direct it to something he omitted: The Billions of Leones that keep going missing at various government entities under President Bio’s watch. He should have also pointed out a major difference between SLPP and APC in their criminal escapades – that SLPP are more brazing than APC as revealed by the Commission of Inquiry. These two parties are no good for our motherland. We need a bloodless revolution by bringing in NGC. The remarkable position of Dr Banya on the Black Johnson Beach deserves unconditional praise. One has to hope that he has President Bio’s direct phone number to let him know that the Chinese are up to no good and that our environmental laws should be strengthened and carry severe penalties for violators. In the last few days the government of Ghana has arrested a number of Chinese who have been degrading and destroying the environment of Ghana, sometimes with the connivance of mentally ill Ghanian officials.

    The operation involves all the wings of the Ghanian armed forces – Navy, Air Force, Military,etc. The Ghanian President, Nana Kofo Addo, who does not suffer fools easily, knows that the destruction of the environment means the unmitigated end of his country. Bio should develop the same attitude. The mudslide which buried people alive while Earnest Koroma was in office should be a constant reminder of how not to fool around with the environment. A good many so-called investors do not like Africans. They see us as stupid and less than human beings.

  5. Folks, over the course of my participation in this glorious intellectual forum, brother Senesie junior Boima, a staunch regime supporter, is among the few that have actually standout, occasionally putting country first rather than political party. His willingness to sometimes call things exactly what they are is indeed commendable, and worth emulating by those who supports our 2 main political parties.

    However, when it comes to one of our elderly statesmen, octogenarian Dr. Banya’s (a diehard SLPP), party politics trumps above everything else. Here we are being told things on the ground are as rosy as ever, except of course, venting his opposition to the looming potential environmental disaster, being brought upon by very regime he claims to be performing with flying colors in all areas of development, with corruption being little or nonexistence.

    We greatly appreciate your stance on the environment Dr. Banya, however, as you announced a year or so regarding your retirement from party politics, we urge you to honor that, since your style of divisive political writing is not worth emulating by the younger generation. If Sierra Leone is to develop, the older generation must instill in the younger generation good morals, and those of patriotism, not partisan politics.

  6. What is the wisdom behind this project? Sierra Leoneans and all tourists coming to your beautiful country should intervene powerfully against this project.

  7. This intended Chinese fishing project at Black Johnson, is totally not good for the environment as narrated by Dr Sama Banya. It is a pity in Sierra Leone that one finds it difficult to voice one’s opinion to the President directly or even through signed petitions. Some time earlier this year if I my correct, a publication in this very newspaper articled an incident in the Gambia on issues regarding this same Chinese fishing project, whereby the local residents could not take it any longer of damages done to their land and rivers by the Chinese and took the law into their hands. Rivers and plants were contaminated with toxins coming from the fish factory.

    It was clear to see from the article the picture and images of the rivers turned RED in colour and trees/plants dying. The local residents burnt down the Chinese fishing factory and asked them to leave their town. This was the extent at which the locals took against the Chinese fishing factory because of the destruction. We don’t want to see that happening in Sierra Leone. So you the quick money opportunist Sierra leoneans, please do not go along with such project. Think of the devastating and everlasting consequences this will cause to our land and sea.

    I think it is good for your newspaper to re-publish the Gambia article (Chinese fishing factory incident) once again for people of Sierra Leone to know what devastating effects such fishing project will have to our eco-system and environment. Keep the good faith Dr Sama Banya and may the Almighty God strengthen your fight to save mama Sierra Leone environs from quick fix, money opportunist and unpatriotic Sierra Leoneans whose main aim is to get rich and care less about the man made destruction they are impacting on our beautiful Mama Sierra Leone.

  8. I totally disagree with you Dr Banya – on your baseless accusation of Mr Chernor Bah of the Africanist Press about the gross siphoning of our nation’s scare financial resources by the elected executive govt compared to the average earnings of the populace in mama Salone. Let us be true to ourselves and our conscience on how the financial resources are being used by the selected few especially in mama Salone. I hope the nominated Finance Minister will help us to dicepher / diagnose the differences between financial waste and corrupt practices as suggested by the Chief Anti Corruption Commissioner in his recent response.

    Please Mr Finance Minister nominated, you know the various accusations etc; you have just cleared you name of. And as a FORMER civil servant who has held key positions both in the previous and current administration in governance. We ARE WATCHING AND WAITING TO SEE WHAT YOU WILL DO DIFFERENTLY AS A FINANCE MINISTER COMPARED TO YOUR PREDECESSOR.

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