Liberia: New Kru Town Residents Are Angry



…..Say gov’t has failed in protecting the Borough against sea erosion 

When experts projected in 2018 that Liberia would see a rise in sea level in a decade, residents of New Kru Town were worried.

The dark tides of rising seas were washing away settlements, but amid predictions that the densely populated settlement would be submerged, the government swung into action knowing that the lives of more than 50,000 people were at risk.

The project, Enhancing Resilience of Vulnerable Coastal Areas to Climate Change Risks in Liberia, would have protected the coastline of New Kru Town against climate change. But nearly five years after the launch, this dream is yet to become a reality as residents of New Kru Town dissipated into a nightmare. 

Some say they are even more vulnerable now than before the arrival of the project. While others claim that the project has become illusive, as sea erosion continues to damage their homes.

“We were promised by the government, but nothing has been done,” said Bordeo Liberson, an elder from the Borough of New Kru Town. “When George Weah came to power, his government promised to build concrete walls that will stop the ocean from washing away our homes. Nothing has happened and our homes are being overwhelmed by sea erosion.”

They described the government’s action as the complete opposite of all of its promises to improve the livelihoods of ordinary citizens who have been languishing in poverty for years. 

The current government, he added, has continued to ignore the plights of its citizens. “This should be a genuine reason to vote it out of power come October,” he said.

The fast-disappearing New Kru Town hosts the Redemption Hospital, the second government-referral health facility in Montserrado County, and the famous D. The High School. Recently, several residents from the Fundaye Community were affected by a heavy ocean storm that washed away several homes, rendering several homeless.

Even after acknowledging some of the government's actions to improve the situation, the locals maintained that the project has become a failure and that the poor design of the engineers who built the walls is being overwhelmed by strong sea waves that sweep into their homes, severely damaging them.

“Since this thing started, we don’t sleep at night when the ocean water finishes spoiling our homes,” said Jerry Wleh.

The anger of New Kru Town comes as Liberia is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change which is already worsening the country’s flood-related disasters. The frequency of extreme weather events is projected to increase in the coming decades as well. 

According to the World Bank, climate change has caused the loss of approximately 0.8 square kilometers of land in Liberia in recent decades, and this would increase further in the coming decades.

A predicted 16cm sea level rise by 2030 in the Greater Monrovia area alone would have a significant impact on 675,000 people and 9,500 hectares of land in Liberia, the Bank said in a 2021 report that profiles the risk of climate change in the country.

Additionally, climate change is expected to have significant effects on key sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, and energy, exacerbating existing social and economic vulnerabilities, particularly among rural populations.

But what is hurting Liberia’s climate change efforts is the issue of funding.  The African Development Bank in a recent report, noted that Liberia, which is one of the world’s least polluting countries, is in dire need of funding to fight climate change, as the county faces a staggering US$460 million funding gap.

In its African Economic Outlook 2023 report, the Bank said that the country needs an estimated $490.6 million to achieve its climate and green growth ambitions through 2025 and faces a gap of $460 million based on its Nationally Determined Contribution, with zero financing yet from the private sector.

“Some of the main reasons are difficulty accessing financing to pay for adaptation actions, lack of financial incentives to motivate private actors to invest in new products or markets that support adaptation, and lack of de-risking opportunities in investments — particularly large-scale infrastructure investments that support green growth.”

However, the issue of the climate change funding gap is a problem that is not only unique to Liberia but many African countries. Africa emits only about three percent of global greenhouse gasses, experts say but is home to many countries that are among the most exposed to the effects of climate change, notably worsening droughts, and floods. 

Africa, according to reports, needs between US$50 -US$100 billion annually to adapt to the effects of climate change but faces a critical shortfall in accessing funding as is the case with Liberia, which is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.