Following the disastrous mudslide that recently struck the country’s green belt, leaving hundreds, including suckling mothers and children dead and dozens more still buried in the rubble with zero percent chance of survival, Sierra Leoneans are now calling on the government to immediately sack the entire management of Lands Ministry for what they describe as gross negligence.
Green belt land refers to an area that is kept in reserve for an open space, most often around larger cities. The main purpose of the green belt policy is to protect the land around larger urban centres from urban sprawl, and maintain the designated area for forestry and agriculture as well as to provide habitat to wildlife.
Areas that are designated as green belt must not be built upon because green belt is defined as an open space, however, that does not mean that no buildings can be erected in green belt. Buildings for agricultural uses and sanitation facilities, for instance, are usually allowed and not dwelling houses as it operates in Sierra Leone.
In Sierra Leone, senior top management in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Environment, from whom much is expected in preserving the country’ green belt, due to its economic benefits, are now seen as partners in crime in the irrepressible manner in which land within the disaster prone green belt areas are being sold to the public to construct dwelling houses.
Loads of victims’ family members who spoke to this press on the primary factors responsible for the shocking death toll, said though it is a natural disaster, President Ernest Bai Koroma should immediately set aside the entire top management of the Ministry for gross negligence in preventing the haphazard sale and allocation of land within the green belt
They claimed that, even though, Directors are fully aware of the facts, that a portion of land should not be sold or allocated to citizens to construct dwelling houses in those vicinity, but when these land documents are presented to them, they sign them with impunity for reasons, many are now calling on the Anti Corruption Commission to investigate.
What actually baffles many family members is the alarming figure of death reported and the number of clandestine dwelling houses built at Mount Sugar Loaf, a complete green belt area that is inaccessible. This, they said, calls for investigation to ascertain how those lands in the green belt were acquired and the signatories to those documents.
“Government should immediately set up a committee demanding those living within the green belt areas to present their respective documents on acquisition of their lands for further investigation, as it will help unearth corruption within the ministry that has led to the brutal butchery of our fellow countrymen,” they affirmed.
Foreign nationals who also spoke to this medium were quoted to have said “in as much as people are desperate to own houses, but it is the responsible of the top management to implement policy and as well institute robust measures to ensure land within the green belt are not encroached.”
They said in China, forty-five people, including several officials, were sentenced up to 20 years in jail for their negligence and involvement in a landslide caused by huge waste dump in which 73 people were killed in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
Hence, government should do likewise owing to the fact that, if people were not allowed to construct dwelling houses in those areas, the death toll would have been minimized.