Environmental assessments for Sierra Leone help sustainable development
The vital role of environmental assessments in supporting the sustainable use of Sierra Leone's rich natural heritage has won high level support at a seminar entitled 'Environmental Assessment: A Tool for Sustainable Development', which took place last week in the country's capital of Freetown.
Freetown, 20 December 2010 The vital role of environmental assessments in supporting the sustainable use of Sierra Leone's rich natural heritage has won high level support at a seminar entitled 'Environmental Assessment: A Tool for Sustainable Development', which took place last week in the country's capital of Freetown.
Speaking at the seminar, organized by the Sierra Leone Environmental Protection Agency (SLEPA) with support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Southern African Institute for Environmental Assessment (SAIEA), the Minister for Information, Mr. I E Kargbo, said the pursuit of sustainable development was this generation's task.
"We have been given one of the greatest responsibilities of all: saving the environment and we must live up to that responsibility," Minister Kargbo said during his keynote address.
"Recognizing the indivisible link between poverty and environment, the government of Sierra Leone now has policies which have clearly attempted to reconcile economic growth, social progress and the environment in order to achieve sustainable development," he added.
Around 150 representatives from government, the private sector, civil society and the international community participated in the seminar which aimed to improve understanding of the links between the environment and sustainable development and the role of environmental assessment.
The Executive Chairperson of SLEPA, Haddijatou Jallow, underlined the importance of environmental management in Sierra Leone.
"Some will always argue that environmental degradation is the inevitable price we pay for our development and economic growth" she said. "This invites and excuses environmental irresponsibility. We must stand firm against environmental irresponsibility," she added.
Also speaking at the seminar, the Executive Representative of the UN Secretary General and UN Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone, Mr. Michael von der Schulenburg, commended the work of SLEPA. Other speakers included the Executive Director of SAIEA, Dr. Peter Tarr.
UNEP is active in Sierra Leone providing a range of environmental expertise to the UN Country Team. In conjunction with SAIEA, UNEP's ongoing work on environmental assessment includes conducting training on assessment methodology, mentoring SLEPA officers, facilitating environmental monitoring trips by jeep and helicopter, and providing advice on legislation, fee structures and guidelines for environmental impact assessments.
Oli Brown, UNEP's Programme Coordinator in Sierra Leone, noted that the country is rich in mineral resources. "These resources could help Sierra Leone move away from donor dependency and towards economic growth, new jobs, providing the money to pay for hospitals and schools, build new roads and improving services. But, as experience around the world shows, if managed badly, the reckless exploitation of those resources will damage development."
UNEP's programme in Sierra Leone follows the release in February 2010 of the Sierra Leone Environment, Conflict and Peacebuilding Assessment completed as part of UNEP's Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding project which involves offering technical assistance to Member States and the UN system to sustainably manage natural resources and the environment