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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

EPA Responds

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EPA Responds

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The EPA-SL takes the strongest exception to the contents of this article which we consider as a calculated attempt to distort the Agency’s agenda and a flagrant misrepresentation of the purport of the Environmental Impact Assessment license fees levied on companies. The assertion that the EPA-SL is “killing small and medium enterprises” in Sierra Leone is remarkably misleading and without basis.

We are particularly stunned by the fact that such a criticism of the Agency is coming from an institution whose membership depend upon a well-managed environment. It appears that the Executive Secretary of SLeCAD attaches little or no regard for environmental regulation and protection in Sierra Leone.

The mandate of the EPA-SL, inter alia, is to regulate the activities of all individuals, companies and institutions which impact on the environment of Sierra Leone. In furtherance of this objective, the Agency has instituted a number of mechanisms among which is the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which is a statutory requirement for individuals or institutions wanting to undertake any of the activities specified in the First Schedule of the Environment Protection Agency Act 2008.

The determination of EIA License fees is contingent upon a number of factors as clearly spelt out in our EPA Regulations of 2010 and is on case by case bases. These factors include the company’s investment outlay; the proximity of the project to human settlements; the concession area, the type of project activities; the impact on the natural environment, environmental pollution, social and health impact and the type of monitoring required. These and more are germane factors that are critical to any prudent environmental regulator like the EPA-SL during the process of granting an environmental license. SLeCAD’s Executive Secretary would want the public to believe that EPA-SL maintains a certain amount of license fees that applies to all companies regardless of their nature and scope which is most definitely not the case.

It is also important to note that our license fees are reviewed from time to time and companies that are deemed to be in compliance with environmental regulations have their fees reduced as an incentive for implementing sound and prudent environmental management practices. The reduction in fees is also intended to motivate companies to invest in technologies that improve on their environmental footprints.

There is good reason for the acquisition of an EIA license in the sense that it stipulates conditions within which the proponent must operate. Through the Agency’s monitoring processes, we are able to follow up on a number of issues including a company’s environmental footprints. The monitoring process also enables the Agency to determine whether a company is in compliance with the Act or whether there is a substantial deviation from the terms and condition stated in the EIA License.

The question as to what the EPA-SL does with moneys collected as license fees requires a very simple answer. It might interest readers to know that EPA-SL as an Agency of government conducts its activities without creating any financial burden on the government treasury and we are very encouraged by this fact. The proceeds that are realised from license fees and project proposals coupled with donor support is what the Agency relies upon to undertake activities such as research on the flora and fauna, quarterly monitoring of companies, capacity building of its staff and testing of banned substances which is usually done from abroad for lack of the requisite technology. The Agency has also established Nature Clubs and women’s groups across the country as an awareness raising platform on the environment of Sierra Leone.

Finally, it is important to also bring to the attention of the general public that EPA-SL license processes are in concord with international best practice. The World Bank guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessment safeguards are very instructive on the need for an EIA license. Pillar 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is also very instructive on the need for the global community to come together to combat issues of climate change. Sierra Leone being a signatory to certain important international treaties like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has to be seen to be demonstrating her unflinching commitment to her international obligations. As a third world country, Sierra Leone’s ability to attract international donor support to help us address environmental challenges depends on how committed we are in meeting certain environmental benchmarks.

 

The suggestion therefore that an environmental protection agency that was set up to protect the environment is killing businesses merely because of its fees, simply defies logic.  We believe that a thriving business sector, whether public or private, depends on how well we manage our environment. There is nothing more costly than to restore a depleted environment. In this regard, EPA-SL will continue to do its very best to project our country’s image as a major player in tackling environmental challenges. 

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