Freetown, as a tropical capital, used to feature a particularly rich wetland ecosystem on the coast, which remains to be considered a Ramsar or conservation site and therefore falls under the purview of the National Protected Area Agency (NPAA). Poor conservation strategies and a high demand for housing have seriously damaged the green portions of the city, and with that, increased the risk of inland and coastal floods.
Two weeks before the landslide, Bala and his team stood beneath the Sugarloaf Mountain in Regent and told local school students about the dangers of deforestation, of the risks of landslides, of the importance of the peninsula forest in providing clean water for the people.
Two weeks later, dozens of those same children were dead – lost beneath the thousands of tonnes of earth and stone that slipped off the mountainside on the morning of August 14 (2017).
The Turtle Islands are situated 100 km south of Freetown in the Atlantic Ocean, off the west coast of Sierra Leone. There are eight islands that make up this archipelago, seven of which are inhabited. One of the islands is strictly off-limits to visitors and women, and only frequented by male initiates from the local Sherbro population.
A moratorium established to stop encroachment into protected areas of the Western Peninsular Forest has not been enforced. The Environmental Protection Agency’s deputy director Mohammed Bah said in 2015 that “irresponsible actions taken on the hills will affect the city greatly”. But construction in these areas continues with impunity, perhaps linked to the fact that many residents are politically connected. The rate of deforestation is alarming and the associated impacts are being felt across the city and not just during the rainy season.
In his keynote address to the International Expert Group Meeting on Forced Eviction Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, noted that urbanisation is not simply about housing creation and slum prevention. Rather, urbanisation should be understood in much broader terms and consider the potential roles played by governments and policymakers in making cities more efficient, inclusive and equitable.