Houses near the Lakka, Goderich and Hamilton beach are crumbling down and there had been alarming calls by the affected residents that if the situation is left unchecked the whole settlements along the beach will be completely destroyed.
Heeding to this red alert, DFID in collaboration with CEMMATS Groups Ltd have combined to prepare policy papers on the issues related to sand and aggregate extraction, which served as the document of discussion at a stakeholders’ consultative meeting held last week at Santano House in Freetown.
The meeting was to develop a sound policy controlling mining of sand and aggregates so as to salvage the ‘creeping disaster’ Mr Andrew Keili, one of the CEMMATS project consultant said “Sand resources are not infinite and if the rate of extraction in Sierra Leone continue to exceed the rate of sedimentation, the resulting condition is erosion of the coastal regions.”
He said that mining of sand and gravel is concentrated in estuaries, beaches, dunes, and near-shore areas and that sand mining from such areas affects the littoral sand budgets and results in erosion in nearby areas. The CEMMATS Consultant pointed out that coastal mining can cause physical damage or destruction of habitats that are cleared, eroded, buried or crushed by mining activities and increased turbidity and alteration of currents often leads to an extension of the areas affected well beyond the actual mining site which he said is what is now the situation in Lakka Goderich and Lumley.
Prof. Victor Strasser-King another consultant, dealing with geology and resource potential said that mining of sand and gravel need to be strictly regulated in order to minimize impacts, as mitigation can be very expensive.
Regrettably, he averred, “the effects of off-shore and on-shore erosion have begun to be observed in Freetown; examples are Lakka Beach, where sand has been removed on-shore and has created a steep drop and Lumley Beach, where the shoreline has moving closer to the road.”
Mrs Daphne Awuta-Coker discussing the environmental assessment of sand and aggregate said “It is impossible to construct most buildings without using aggregates-sand, gravel and crushed stones.
She said that the supply for these resources is far from being infinite; thus, most home builders are limited to either hiring stone breakers to break the large stones/rocks found within their building sites or buying crushed stones from the stone breakers. Mrs Awuta-Coker pointed out that because of the demand for stone aggregates, stone breaking has become a popular profession, and invariably stone is being crushed on any available area, uncontrolled and unregulated, mostly on hilly grounds. She said that the effect of the lack of stones and vegetation (which is being removed when the land is cleared) in the soil has been manifested in recent times, through land slides. Mitigation would be tedious and expensive if this action is not controlled as soon as possible.Experts are saying that extraction of sand and stone aggregate also occurs in the provinces along river beds and streams, which create environments non-conducive for aquatic flora and fauna, but that the extent of the impacts in the provinces is minimal compared to the impacts in the western area.
By Mohamed Fofannah