Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 April 2022:
Last Saturday, President Dr Julius Maada Bio visited the Guma Valley Dam at Mile 13 in Freetown to see the massive deforestation taking place in the area to make way for community settlements, and called ordered the re-establishment of the Western Area Forest Green Belt and an immediate investigation into the activities of the Ministry of Lands and Housing following accusations of maladministration and corruption.
Last week, the Sierra Leone Telegraph published an article by the Mayor of Freetown – Mrs Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, calling on the government to take immediate action to stop the destruction of the forest reserve along the Freetown Peninsular causing massive deforestation and environmental degradation.
Guma Valley Water Company relies principally on this single source, the Guma Dam and the Guma Water Treatment Plant at Mile 13, with over 90% of the total water supply to over 1.5 million people in the capital, Freetown.
The President said the aim of his visit was to get first-hand experience of the enormity of the threat to the water source and to provide the required political leadership to lawfully prosecute and punish those responsible for deforestation and land grabbing around the water catchment areas.
He added that the ongoing encroachment of the Western Area Forest Green Belt area of the Guma Valley Dam facility is an environmental concern that should be stopped immediately.
“The Western Area Forest Green Belt area is an implementation of Parliament. So, the land is protected by law. This is very annoying and concerning. All those who are responsible should face the law. This is an existential threat that will not be tolerated. We are going to re-establish the Greenbelt and protect it,” he emphasised.
President Julius Maada Bio also urged the police and military to work with the relevant stakeholders to enforce law and order around the facility, saying that they should engage the village headmen to restore and protect the environment and the water catchment areas.
“In as much as we want everyone to build homes, we should do it within the confines of the law. Guma is a major source of water supply to Freetown. Encroachment into the land will limit the fetch and storage of water to the city. If you undermine the environment, it will not protect you,” he concluded.