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After years of abuse, a concerted effort has begun to evict illegal miners from Sapo National Park.
The Forest Development Agency (FDA) is leading the effort through consultations with local governmentsand surrounding forest owners in River Zee, Grand Gede, and Sinoe counties.
Ongoing consultation exercises, conducted county by county, aim to raise awareness among localresidents for deportation exercises. More than 5,000 illegal miners, including farmers and foreigners, arebelieved to be in the park, FDA officials said.
Established as a protected area in 1983, Sapo National Park is known worldwide as home to important flora,fauna and other valuable resources. Located in Sinoe County, Liberia, it is the country’s largest rainforestreserve. It was the first national park to be established in the country and contains his second largestvirgin rainforest in West Africa, after the neighboring Tai National Park in Côte d’Ivoire.
It is a biodiversity hotspot with “the highest mammal biodiversity of any region in the world,” according toConservation International.
Throughout its history, however, the park has been threatened by illegal farming, hunting, logging, andmining. All of this is “made worse by the country’s crippling poverty” and exacerbated by social and pastpolitical instability.
The FDA, which is tasked with managing the parks, has proven less capable of doing so.
However, government agencies believe they cannot act because they lack the appropriate financial andlogistical support to oversee the forest sector.
But FDA Technical Manager for Conservation, Jerry Yonmah noted that initial efforts to raid the park of illegalminers were hampered by the outbreak of COVID-19, which rendered the FDA’s rangers inactive at the time.
He however noted that the FDA is doing everything this time around to evict the Sapo National Park illegaloccupants, saying the park can boast the Southeast in terms of tourism and research.
“Having people who are anti to the government’s policy doesn’t speak good for the country and that such antibehavior needs to be prohibited,” Yonmah told the consultations gathering in Maryland County. “When you area citizen of a country, you must protect what you have and obey the laws of the country, but our citizens arethe ones leading illegal miners in the Park for little or nothing.”
He warned of severe consequences for those illegally extracting the country’s natural resources under thecanopy of Liberian citizens, terming the act as an abuse and gross violation of government’s policy.
The illegal influx of aliens from neighboring countries into Liberia for business purposes, especially theextraction of natural resources is on the increase. Foreigners are supported and encouraged by theirLiberian colleagues.
Until Liberian citizens are able to work with the government on the country’s rich natural reserves, theFDA’s Chief Technology Officer said illegal activities in protected areas will continue to undermine revenuegeneration and degrade Sapo Park. I think it will put you in danger.
The government is considering multiple options to keep illegal miners out of the park, but a privateapproach through consultation with the wider community would be the first approach, Yommer said.
“But if civilian approaches fail, the government will use force to remove illegal miners from the park andconfiscate their equipment and tools.”
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