By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya
In what could be referred to as a vibrant step towards the protection of the natural resources of the country, the Environmental Protection Agency of Sierra Leone (EPASL) in collaboration with the republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) and the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA) had joined forces in ensuring that all illegal activities especially illicit gold mining being carried out within the Otamba Kilimi National Park (OKNP) are stopped and controlled.
The operation code named by the RSLAF as “Operation Python” was mainly carried at night targeting the host communities and their mining sites within the park. At exactly 11:30pm on Wednesday 18th May 2022, the team burnt down the dredges at the Kalmata sites using paddle boats to cross over to their locations within the Little Scarecies river. The foreigners could not be nabbed either because they got intelligence from villagers and whispered to take the back or they were not on site during the time of operations. Community people confirmed the presence of Ghanaians but told the team that they had long left to unknown locations.
The delegation took days to reach out and undertook searches in strategic locations ranging from Kalmata, Yembereh, Simbaria to Gbereya among many locations within and around the OKNP with successful burning down of an impressive number of dredges owned and carrying out activities believed to be directed by foreigners and hosted by locals in these locations. During this special operation, a number of identify cards from the National Health Insurance Scheme of the Republic of Ghana were discovered in the villages with names such as Ayerh Ebenezer Nll inscribed on one of them. In order to get access to finances, these Ghanaians also opened bank accounts in the commercial banks of Sierra Leone. These bank identity cards were discovered during the operations.
Since the President of Sierra Leone issued a warning and instructed for a committee to be setup in June of 2021 to undertake regular monitoring and raids on the river beds and water ways across the country, this is part of that effort by the EPASL towards the protection of these river beds and banks from gold mining which are presently facing intense pressure from these illegal activities.
“With the support of the President, the Board of Directors management and the Executive Chairman of the Environmental Protection Agency is ever ready and stand firm to ensure that all illegal gold mining activities are curtailed within the river beds” said Lamin Opie Tarawallie, Deputy Director, Field Operations and Extension at the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone.
The EPASL does not give any mining license or encourage any company or illicit gold mining activities to be undertake to any of the rivers across the country Lamin added.
Recently within the Pampana River, the EPASL had undertaken many operations and raids of illicit mining activities and had succeeded in burning down more than fifty dredges and arrested many people operating excavators and destroying the waterways.
Guma Hands Over Angola Town Project Site to CHICO
The Guma valley Water Company in collaboration with the Office of the Chief Minister and Ministry of Water Resources has on Thursday 19th May, 2022 handed over the project site for the construction of the Angola Town Water Supply System to China Henan International Corporation Group (CHICO) at a ceremony held at Angola Town witnessed by stakeholders.
Ing. Francis Lahai, Deputy Managing Director of Guma Valley Water Company who chaired the ceremony said the construction of a water supply system in Angola Town “is welcome news” and hoped that the contractor will complete the works on the stipulated date stated for the contract implementation.
The Deputy Managing Director said the project will construct a Treatment Plant with a capacity of 2500 cubic meters and a 25-kilometer distribution network which on completion will improve on access to water supply in Angola Town, Adonkia, Ogoo Farm, and Lakka Communities. He strongly encouraged the contractor to employ local labor during the implementation of the project to create a sense of ownership.
The Managing Director of Guma Valley Water Company, Ing. Maada Kpenge in his statement informed the gathering that water supply is central to the human capital development agenda of the Government; and that Guma have been task with the responsibility of ensuring that 75% of residents of the Western Area have access to water supply by 2023 and universal access by 2028.
Ing. Kpenge commended the Kuwaiti Development Fund for providing US$10 million for the implementation of the project under the Freetown WASH and Aquatic Environment Revamping Project which aims at contributing 15% increase in access to safe water supply and 7% increase in improved sanitation in the Western Area. He called on community members and stakeholders to ensure that the project is successfully implemented for the benefit of the greater good.
Ing. Augustine Tucker, Director of Water at the Ministry of Water Resources and Ing. Monica Morrison-Kamara of the Office of the Chief Minister reiterated Government’s commitment to the provision of adequate potable water supply for the people of Sierra Leone. They called on the people of Angola Town and the surrounding communities to cooperate for the successful implementation of the project.
In his statement, the Local Unit Commander at the Adonkia Police Station, Commissioner Abu Bakarr Kallon assured the project of the Sierra Leone Police fullest support and encouraged residents of Angola Town to be law abiding. He advised them to channel all grievances through lawful and appropriate mechanisms for peaceful resolution.
Jeffrey L. Kabia (Head Man Adonkia), Foday Tucker (Head Man Lakka), Ashmie Cole (Dep. Head Man Ogoo Farm), Chief Dumbuya (Angola Town), George Sesay (Dep. Head Man Hamilton), Councillor Bai D. Kabia of Ward 389 and other stakeholders pledged their support to the success of the project.
The Managing Director for the China Henan International Corporation Group (CHICO) Kong Weikong said his company is a world renowned specialized company that works on water supply, roads, bridges, hydro dams and other civil works. He added that they have previously worked on water supply projects in Kenema, Kono, Kabala and Kailahun. He thanked the Government and Guma for the confidence reposed in the company and promised to complete the project according to the contract agreement with high quality standard.
The ceremony was climaxed with the symbolic handing over of the project site by the Community Stakeholders to the representatives from the Ministry of Water Resources and the Office of the Chief Minister, who in turn handed over the project site to Guma Valley Water Company and the Contractor – China Henan International Corporation Group (CHICO).