In the face of climate change, sea level rise, and coastal erosion, the Environmental Protection Agency – Sierra Leone is conducting vulnerability assessments and stakeholder consultations in the country.
As a Center of Expertise (CoE) for the MAMI WATA project, the Environment Protection Agency – Sierra Leone (EPA-SL) has played a crucial role in coordinating the implementation of recommendations in the country’s State of the Marine Environment (SoME) assessment report, which was completed in 2015, in collaboration with GRID-Arendal.
The report provided a number of recommendations aimed at addressing the degradation and loss of coastal habitats, by regulating and controlling beach sand mining, and by prohibiting unplanned and informal settlements in coastal areas, through the implementation of spatial protection measures. These included the regular monitoring of ecologically sensitive coastal and marine environments, the identification of ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs), the promotion of coastal zoning and marine spatial planning (MSP), as well as the control of the establishment of new settlements in coastal areas.
As a MAMI WATA project CoE, EPA-SL hosted the first technical working group meeting in October 2017, in order to finalize the toolkit on the three Integrated Ocean Management tools, namely MSP, EBSAs, and SoME reporting. In October 2018, the Agency led a capacity development workshop on SoME reporting for the three MAMI WATA pilot project countries – Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana – and in 2019 participated in the SoME inception workshop in Ghana to share knowledge and provide support, with a particular focus on the expert elicitation method.
These knowledge exchange activities and data collection processes have allowed the EPA-SL, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to oversee a number of baseline vulnerability assessments for selected areas along the coast of Sierra Leone. From October to December 2018, an assessment of coastal assets and ecosystems vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal storms was for instance conducted. The assessment quantified shoreline changes over a thirteen-year period (from 2005 to 2018), with the aim of producing baseline data that will be used in predicting the shoreline positions of infrastructures most at risk from sea level rise and coastal storms.
Inventories of infrastructures were also undertaken in selected pilot sites, including Lakka, Hamilton, Tombo, Conakridee, Shenge and Turtle Island, in order to determine their vulnerability to sea level rise and coastal storms. At all study sites, a cumulative retreat of the shoreline (i.e. coastal erosion) was observed over the selected period by as little as 35m for Tombo, and as much as 42 m in Lakka, with already undeniable impacts on ecosystems, infrastructures, and coastal communities. Conclusions of the assessment include that the shoreline change in all pilot sites was evidently high and the magnitude of the resulting impacts to communities, infrastructure, as well as ecology were significant. Evidences of severe damage to properties and infrastructure were found, and human interferences have contributed to the rate of the shoreline changes in addition to natural processes.
As part of its mandate, and as a result of the different assessments conducted, the EPA-SL in July 2020 commenced stakeholder consultations for the development of a new regulation aimed at enhancing the protection, management and development of the coastal and marine environment of Sierra Leone. The regulation is expected to establish a governance mechanism that supports an integrated approach to managing and mitigating the impacts of human activities and natural hazards on the country’s coastal and marine environment.
In the stakeholder consultation meeting held on July 18th 2020, key stakeholders operating in the marine and coastal environment reviewed and approved the scope of the proposed regulation, and established the landward and seaward boundaries of the marine and coastal environment in accordance with existing legislations and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which Sierra Leone has ratified.
In his keynote address, the Minister of the Environment, Prof Foday Moriba Jaward, highlighted the most crucial elements of the proposed regulations, which he said shall notably include environmental impact assessments prior to the development of new activities, coastal access and development control, restrictions for the most environmentally harmful activities, and different compliance and enforcement, and liabilities and compensations mechanisms.
The meeting participants agreed to, i) include in the principal legislation (EPA Act, 2020 amendment) the needed provisions to provide for the enactment of regulations on the coastal and marine environment; and ii. that the regulations include provisions on climate change adaptation and mitigation at the national level, with a particular focus on advocating for regulating emissions from the global shipping industry.
 The report will be made available on the EPA’s website shortly.
Picture: Environmental Protection Agency – Sierra Leone