Encroachers are rapidly damaging the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary (TCS) catchment areas at Bathurst village outside Freetown.
Inspite of several complaints to the line Ministries of Lands, the Environment, Water Resources, Energy and Tourism respectively, the land grabbers are having a field day and even State House has not helped the worsening and alarming situation that is a clear affront to government.
People are wondering and frustrated that it is getting too late to protect the buffer zone that the TCS has protected for over 30 years as the benefits of the buffer zone are so numerous to mention for both flora and fauna and the very survival of Sierra Leone.
On 8th July 2021, officials of the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA) stopped the land grabbers but they came back in large numbers and are causing massive destruction by clearing the area.
From all indications, it seems as if no one has the guts to challenge them to put an end to this insanity once and for all.
It must be highlighted that the areas the hoodlums are clearing are next to such a sensitive place as the dam that supplies water to Regent and its environs and is also the site for the number one tourist destination in the country.
“Government is just paying lip service to promoting TCS when in actual fact it is unserious. This is a fallacy,” Fitzgerald Ellis observed.
Secondly, the World Bank, through the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, is financing a multi-million dollar innovation center project surrounded by a botanical garden in the area.
This area has been protected for over 30 years to create a buffer zone for the wildlife sanctuary. It is also one of the catchment areas that are feeding the Charlotte mini-hydro-power facility, the reason the ministry of energy must swiftly intervene.
The question the public is now asking is how can people grab land without signed documents from the Ministry of Lands and why can’t all these ministries come together to put a stop to this madness and find a permanent solution to an issue that threatens state security.
Furthermore, are all Sierra Leoneans and none citizens alike going to be silent spectators and see the demise of the country’s number one tourist destination that has put the country on the global map?
What is Guma Valley Water Company doing about this? Encroachment has passed the main Guma pipeline that delivers water to the Babadorie Treatment Facility.
Guma Valley has already lost the Sugar Loaf Catchment area and all the forest behind Babadorie. Can’t Guma Valley learn from these bitter experiences and act now?
Roland Reffle, a 70 year-old retired civil servant and resident of Regent village lamented: “I feel sorry for Sierra Leone that top government functionaries/ministries and departments cannot stop heightened lawlessness and unpatriotic hoodlums. How can anyone claim these buffer zones next to such a sensitive area, the country’s number one tourist destination and it seems nobody cares?
This will never happen in the developed or serious countries.”