A deal with the PRC with Sierra Leone failed
The project would have a “ disastrous ” impact on tourism and “ the very fishing industry it is supposed to support, ” one conservationist said.
Sierra Leonean government’s US $ 55 million deal with China to build an industrial fishing port on 100 hectares of beach and protected rainforest has been criticized as “a catastrophic human and ecological disaster” by advocates environment, landowners and rights groups.
The gold and black sands of Black Johnson Beach border the African nation’s Western Region Peninsula National Park, home to endangered species including headache antelope and pangolins.
The waters are rich in sardines, barracudas and groupers, caught by local fishermen who produce 70 percent of the fish for the domestic market.
After reports of a Chinese-backed fishmeal factory began circulating on social media, a statement believed to have come from Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources confirmed the deal, but denied that the planned construction was a “fish factory”.
The facility would be a port for tuna and “other larger fishing vessels” exporting to international markets, the statement said.
The facility would include a “waste management component” to “recycle marine and other litter into useful products,” he said.
The Sierra Leonean government said the beach, one of several along the country’s 400 km coastline, was the “most suitable place” for construction, adding that the finance ministry had set aside compensation. 13.76 billion leones ($ 1.34 million) for those affected. landowners, but the statement left more questions than answers, said those who opposed the plan.
Two legal campaign groups, the Institute for Legal Research and Advocacy for Justice (ILRAJ) and Namati Sierra Leone, wrote to the government of Sierra Leone, under the Right of Access to Information Act, asking to see the environmental and social impact assessment studies, and the report showing that the beach was, as stated, the most suitable place for construction “in terms of bathymetry, social guarantees (minimum costs of resettlement) and environmental issues ”.
They are also looking for a copy of the grant agreement between China and Sierra Leone.
“The press release was very vague. It left us wondering how we got here and how come we only hear about this now. We have the right to know more, ”said ILRAJ lawyer Basita Michael.
James Tonner, who owns land in Black Johnson with his mother, Jane Aspden Gbandewa, wrote an open letter to Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio urging him to step in and stop construction, which Tonner said would be “Disastrous for the country and the planet.”
It would destroy virgin rainforest, plunder fish stocks and pollute fish breeding grounds and several ecosystems, Tonner said.
The beach is on Whale Bay, so named because it features whales and dolphins.
Tonner, who lives in London, has set up a crowdfunding page to fund a judicial review of the deal.
The Sierra Leonean government could act unconstitutionally if it acquired the land on a compulsory basis, he said, because the constitution requires such a move to be in the public interest.
The compensation reported by the government was also unfair, he said, claiming the rate was around 30 times lower than the market value of the land.
“Under the constitution, the government can sequester land if it is in the public interest,” Tonner said. “Even if that [is] just a deep water port, it’s not in the public interest because it’s not a suitable site. There are fish breeding grounds in the lagoon. This will wipe out the local living fish populations. “
“ ALL TASTE ”
“If they do that here, the water will be dirty, there will be a lot of oil and noise, the trawlers will be everywhere. Our own fishermen will not have a place to fish. Everything will be spoiled. Tourism will be over, ”said Tito Gbandewa, Tonner’s father-in-law, who is a former fisherman who runs an ecotourism business on the beach and owns about 1.2 hectares.
Sierra Leone Conservation Society President Emeritus Sama Banya said the proposed development would have a “disastrous” impact on tourism and “the very fishing industry it is supposed to support.”
Sierra Leonean Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Emma Kowa Jalloh said the plan was for a port, not a fishmeal factory.
“I can tell you categorically that there is no fish mill [sic] go to Black Johnson. What we are doing is a fishing port that will be built by the Chinese government. A fish mill is something where you’re going to catch all the baby fish and grind them into food to give to pigsties and aquaculture fish – and that’s not true, ”Jalloh said.
It would be built with a “grant” from the Chinese government and Sierra Leone’s own funds in the form of land, she said.
Half of the land needed belonged to the government, including the waterfront, up to 200 meters from the sea, while the rest was acquired by forced acquisition, she said.
“People make a big deal out of it,” she says. “I would just like to appeal to people, ‘Be patient, we want to be developed, we want to grow, we want to be classified as a country to come. There has to be development and someone has to sacrifice themselves. ”
“I’m not saying everything will be 100% perfect, but we’ll make sure it’s almost perfect,” she added.
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