Sierra Leone

International Treaties

Sustainable Development

Environmental Law

Case Studies


Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone’s constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 18 (3) reads: “Nothing contained in or done under authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this section to the extent that the law in question makes provision" which is reasonably required in the interests of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, public health or the conservation of the natural resources, such as mineral, marine, forest and other resources of Sierra Leone, except in so far as that provision or, as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society”

Featured Legislation

1988: The Forestry Act was passed. This Act replaces the Forestry Act of 1912. It is based on the recommendations of an FAO technical assistance project, which suggested legislation providing more explicitly than previously for forest management. The Chief Conservator of Forests is made responsible for the management of the forest resources of the country. He is required to compile a national inventory of forest resources and a national forest management plan designed to obtain the “optimum combination of economic, social and environmental benefits. Most of the management provisions of the Act apply only to classified forests, which may be either national or community. A national forest is required to be on State-owned or -leased land, in contrast to reserves under the previous law which were generally on chiefdom (customary) land. As under the previous law, existing usage rights compatible with the purpose of the forest are to be preserved. Acquisition or leasing of land for national forests is subject to normal provisions for compensation. Previously, compensation was not usually paid in respect of areas put into forest reserves, although a part of any timber royalties was given to chiefdom authorities. A classified forest may have protection or production as its primary purpose, but in both cases it is to be managed for the maximum combination of benefits compatible with the primary purpose. Detailed inventories of classified forests may be required by regulation.

1994: The Fisheries Decree was signed. This Decree lays down better provisions for the management, planning and development of fisheries and the fishing industry in Sierra Leone and other aspects relating specifically to the establishment of a system of public control over fishing and the use of nets.

2001: The Water Company Act was instituted. The Act provides for the incorporation of the Sierra Leone Water Company which shall be responsible for water supply in specified areas. Responsibility for water supply in certain urban areas is transferred from water authorities to the Company (sect. 24). Notwithstanding the provisions of the Water (Control and Supply) Act, 1963, this Act shall apply to every area falling under the responsibility of the Company (sect. 1(2)). The minister may assign areas to the company (sect. 25). Rules for the use of water can be found in sections 50-59. (70 sections divided into eleven Parts)

2008: The Environment Protection Agency Act (No. 11 of 2008) was passed. This Act establishes the Environment Protection Agency, defines its functions and powers, provides for its organization and administration and provides rules for various matters regarding the environment in Sierra Leone such as environmental impact assessment and the control of ozone-depleting substances.

2008: The Bumbuna Watershed Management Authority and the Bumbuna Conservation Area Act (No. 6 of 2008) was introduced. This act provides for the establishment of the Bumbuna Watershed Management Authority, to coordinate sustainable land use and agriculture programmes in an environmentally compatible manner in the Bumbuna Watershed, to promote environmental management and biodiversity conservation in the Bumbuna Conservation Area, in order to address environmental and social needs associated with the operation of the Bumbuna Hydroelectric Dam, including, the physical protection and sustainability of the Bumbuna reservoir and to provide for other related matter. This Act establishes the Bumbuna Watershed Management Authority and constitutes the Bumbuna Conservation Area.

2015: The National Land Policy was established. The Final National Land Policy (NLP) of Sierra Leone provides the vision, principles and policy components to give direction to and definition of the roles and responsibilities of various government and customary authorities, and other non-state actors, in land management. Specifically, it enunciates policy statements in respect of the key components of the National Land Policy such as access to land and tenure, land use, regulation and the management of special land issues, land administration structures, land laws and the Constitution. The document addresses the major issues related to land management and administration in Sierra Leone, with a view to moving towards a clearer, more effective and just land tenure system that shall provide for social and public demands, stimulate responsible investment and form a basis for the nation’s continued development. The text of the policy is composed of the following Chapters: 1) Introduction; 2) Vision and guiding principles; 3) The land question; 4) Issues related to constitutional reform; 5) Land tenure framework; 6) Facilitating equitable access to land; 7) Land rights administration and institutional framework; 8) Land use planning and regulation for land development; 9) Land issues requiring special intervention; 10) Land policy implementation framework.

2017: The Sierra Leone Meteorological Agency Act (No. 8 of 2017) was promulgated. This Act establishes the Sierra Leone Meteorological Agency as a body corporate and provides with respect to its administration, internal organizations, functions and powers, etc. The Agency shall serve as the sole authority for the provision of meteorological and climatological services throughout Sierra Leone, and shall, among other things, (a) advise Government on all aspects of meteorology, climatology,climate change and other climate related issues and (b) develop Government policy in the field of meteorology, climatology, climate change and other climate related issues, (c) promote the use of meteorology in agriculture, food monitoring and in the monitoring of flood, drought, desertification and other related activities, and (d) participate in international activities (including those of the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

2017: The National Water Resources Management Agency Act was ratified. This Act provides for the establishment of National Water Resources Management Agency as a body corporate, defines its functions and powers of the Agency, provides with respect to management of National Water Basins and Water Catchment Area Management Committees, and provides rules for water use and permit procedures. The Act also establishes the National Water Resources Management Fund. The Act declares property in and control of all water resources to be vested in the Government and people of Sierra Leone.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • Sierra Leone’s 2018 report on proposed solutions to the environmental crisis focuses on funding challenges, bureaucratic hurdles, and the measured benefits that some organizations encounter. In an attempt to recover from repeated land extractions via mineral excavation and deforestation projects, Sierra Leone’s environmental laws are trying to mitigate environmental catastrophes such as deadly mudslide – one of which took the lives of over 1,000 Sierra Leoneans and displaced nearly five times that amount. Such disasters continue to plague the capital city of Freetown, attributing to a sharp increase in homelessness and poverty and a decline in primary and secondary school attendance. The government and its residents have recognized the impending danger of deforestation and mining. A paradigmatic shift among the government has occurred, prompting officials to turn their attention to environmentally safe mining methods governed by the decade-old Environmental Protective Agency of Sierra Leone. The government has worked alongside non-governmental and community-based organizations, educating communities on the benefits of good environmental practices and advocating for local farmers. Hyperlocal groups have taken on the role of environmental stewards by adopting planting as a poverty elimination tool. In fact, some of these community groups crowdsource funds through social media for seedling projects that help pay to plant trees and other vegetation, in an effort to balance the country’s deforestation issue.

References and Further Reading


Minister of Environment: Hon. Dr. Foday M. Jaward,