SAND MINING – DESTRUCTION TO THE POTENTIAL OF SIERRA LEONE’S TOURISM

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By: Abdul Osaio Kamara

Arguably, tourism in Sierra Leone is highly beach oriented – and for a good reason. The beaches all along the Western Coastline from Aberdeen to Kent are easily accessible and excellent, among them iconic locations such as Number Two, Tokeh and Bureh Beach. Pictures of these beaches are found on every travel website, in every guidebook and in uncounted social media posts dedicated to international and domestic tourism in Sierra Leone, often accompanied by enthusiastic reviews on sites such as Tripadvisor. These images have made their way around the world in recent years and have undoubtedly played a great role in showing the world “the other Sierra Leone” and in shaping a positive image of a paradise to be discovered. Indeed, increasing numbers of travellers began to trickle in. The enormous potential did not go unnoticed by private investors. Guesthouses and hotels began to proliferate all along the coast. These businesses do not only employ significant numbers of Sierra Leoneans in communities with no other employment opportunities, but also provide continuous work and income to builders, carpenters, masons, plumbers, electricians, fishermen, drivers and shopkeepers etc. Beaches which had only very limited accommodation options 10 years back have since turned into flourishing and popular weekend and holiday destinations and are much loved both by citizens and people from around the world.

However, this article is not about good news. These beaches are not as beautiful as they once were. One would struggle to still describe any of them as pristine or unspoiled – in reality, they are being ravaged.

The backdrop of lush green forested hills which once made the scenery along the coast breathtakingly beautiful has largely made way for sprawling, unplanned urbanisation and uncontrolled deforestation in what is – at least on paper – a forest reserve. Sand mining operations have taken place on many beaches, leaving complete destruction in their wake like at the former Sugar land Beach in Goderich. Presently, large-scale sand mining is conducted at John Obey in immediate proximity to some of the best beaches in Sierra Leone. John Obey Beach itself was an unspoiled jewel just a few years ago – now it is basically destroyed. The effects of sand mining can even be seen at Tokeh Beach, some miles away from John Obey. It is already devastated by heavy erosion. Palm trees have fallen, buildings have collapsed. Tree trunks and the ruins of former buildings litter the once beautiful beach. The destruction can no longer be ignored at Bureh Beach right next to John Obey as well. This previously vast and flat beach of golden sand is becoming increasingly rocky and steep. Coastal erosion is accelerating every year to the point of human remains now being washed out from the village cemetery at high tide.

The draw card of tourism in Sierra Leone – ‘picture-perfect’ beaches in front of a backdrop of forested mountains – being ravaged at a mind boggling pace. Once the beaches are mined, they are gone for good. The sand will not return, and erosion cannot be undone. Who still remembers that the fishing community of Tombo, for example, once had sandy beaches? It allegedly did, but the sand was mined and then never returned. The sand hasn’t returned to Sugar land Beach either, but instead erosion has claimed 200 meters of the land. This is the fate all beaches along the Peninsular are now facing, and perhaps it is already too late for many of them.

It is evident what this would mean for tourism and the employment, tax revenues and good image that are expected to come with it. A proprietor of a guesthouse at one of the affected beaches (who wished to remain anonymous) stated that tourism had already been compromised by noise, crime and rubbish from outings and fiestas, but that the destruction of the beach would be the final nail in its coffin. The person voiced regrets about having invested a significant amount of money in tourism because the structures at the beach would be claimed by the sea in a few years if the sand mining continued.

As can be seen at locations such as Sugar land Beach, such concerns are justified. Beach tourism obviously depends on intact beaches. When even premium beaches like Tokeh, Number Two or Bureh are not spared such destruction, investors would hardly trust any location to be safe enough to pour money into. The numerous employment opportunities in the tourism sector that have already been created may be lost if customers stay away because the beaches are no longer attractive or the structures collapse into the sea, and it is highly unlikely that new investment would take place at such locations. Making claims about promoting tourism and calling for investment in this sector are stuffs that are essentially pointless when there is nothing left to promote or to invest in. Therefore, a positive paradigm shift is needed if we are to change this narration for the better and for the good of all and sundry.

Itv Deprives Subscribers

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By Mustapha Ezekiel Dumbuya

The independent Television Company (ITV) is a wireless antenna satellite that hosts multiple Television stations which serves over 50% of Sierra Leoneans in residents and offices.

The company has been operating in Sierra Leone since it was Launched in 2016 and many sierra Leoneans have been subscribing to the company`s services. For up to a month now, complaints are rife from customers, citing the non-availability of signals despite having paid for uninterrupted services.

According to some customers that spoke with Public Review, they disclosed that they are paying charges of about $40 as monthly subscriptions in return for 33 Television Channels entitled to the customer for onward viewing.

One of the customers said that even though they are subscribing with $40 which is a substantial amount in Sierra Leone, people are still facing huge challenges in receiving video pictures and voice signals  as the waves always blows off the antenna.

 Efforts to get the management to respond to the allegations proved futile, but Fanta kamara a customer care worker at the ITV head office in Wilkinson road said it was three weeks ago when they experienced that the main server that screens voice and images to the television of subscribers has been burnt by electric current.

She explained that the management has been working on the problem and up till now they are yet to finding a solution.

Miss Kamara intimated that several people have been calling them on a daily basis to complaining the lack of signals from ITV.

She ended that even though there was a problem some people are still subscribing, whiles adding that they are at present doing less work as the number of subscribers has dropped significantly.

     

 It should be noted that the ITV Company has already violated the National Tele Communications Act (NATCOM) that is responsible to regulate providers of digital satellite television services.

It is a bad practice to allow customers to subscribe when the issue of lack of transmission is not resolved. Public Review will continue to monitor the ITV crisis and will update the general public in due course. å

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