-EPA, LWSC begin robust wetland awareness campaign with removal of illegal structures
Liberians who have illegally been constructing in wetlands, blocking waterways and alleys, not just in Monrovia and its immediate environs, but across the country should brace themselves for an unexpected harsh reality as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the Liberia Water Sewer Corporation (LWSC) have begun a massive demolition exercise in Paynesville and Congo Town.
The two agencies of government are collaborating to ensure that the LWSC has access to its infrastructures such as waterlines and valves, over many of which residents have constructed illegal structures. This is an effort for the corporation to adequately supply water to Monrovia and other nearby communities. The initiative is also meant to clear waterways and alleys are to prevent flooding as well as the destruction of the mangrove forest.
The exercise, which was also done in collaboration with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), began on the SKD Boulevard last weekend and, according to the stakeholders, this should serve as a caveat to other communities in the country. It coincided with the launch of a campaign on wetlands.
LWSC Deputy Director for Technical Services, Dan Saryee, said the corporation is doing a lot of work but is being disturbed by actions of some unscrupulous residents within various communities.
He decried the actions of people who are constructing on the waterlines that were recently constructed. “We have just completed the construction of a major water line along this route and we have observed that people have started to build upon these lines. This very unfortunate,” he said.
Mr. Saryee said it was against this background that the LWSC engaged the EPA for the need to collaborate and solve this problem.
He said, “It is unfortunate that people built over the LWSC valves making it very impossible for us to locate. The valves are practically in their homes. “So this exercise is meant to adequately protect our infrastructures.”
“I want to urge residents who are in the habit of doing this to stop. These structures will be demolished because we have to ensure that our facilities are protected. What we used to build these infrastructures are public funds and we must respect that. We need to supply water to our people and this is a must. We cannot allow some unscrupulous people to be a threat to this mandate,” he said.
Few structures were demolished at the start of the exercise at SKD Boulevard Junction. Though the owners of the structures did not show up during the demolition exercises, the EPA said it had sent warning earlier.
EPA Executive Director, Nathaniel Blama, frowned on residents who are involved in these acts, saying that they do not mean well for the country.
He said filling the wetland does not only cause flooding, it also hampers the distribution of water supply across the city. This, he said, is because the mangrove swamp serves as a filtration ground for the water. “If you are harvesting groundwater, this is where it filters from. So if we block the waterways, the boreholes will overtime be lack of water because the process of filtering and pumping the water will not be able to take place,” he noted.
Protection of mangroves forest paramount
The EPA is cautioning against the destruction of mangroves that play a very important in preserving the environment, has huge financial potential for the country and serve as breeding habitats for fish and other marine life and many more good reasons.
Mr. Blama noted that the EPA is about to get vigilante to arrest and punish people who are destroying the mangrove forests.
The mangroves play pivotal roles in combat against climate change. They protect shorelines from damaging storm and hurricane winds, waves, and floods. They also help prevent erosion by stabilizing sediments with their tangled root systems.
They maintain water quality and clarity, filtering pollutants and trapping sediments originating from land. Mr. Blama also added, “This ecosystem also serves as a natural control for flooding. Every time it rains, we begin to cry that the place is flooded and you need government aid. But do you forget what the consequences would be when you block the waterways?”
“The wetlands absorb and filter water coming from the highlands and then recycle it. So when one fills in the wetland and build in there. So where do you expect the water to go? It will definitely go back in your homes.”
He said the wetland has the potential for us to get billions of dollars for our country but we must preserve it adequately. “Getting such funds will enable government to deliver the needed social services to its people.
The EPA boss however disclosed that the EPA, FDA and the Ministry of Finance are currently developing the requisite document that will help the country access or leverage its carbon potentials. “But this won’t be possible if the partners come to quantify our carbon and get to know that we have cleared our entire mangrove. They will definitely take us to be not serious. They will tell us that we don’t deserve the money.
As part of the campaign, signboards with warning against encroaching on wetlands are being erected across Montserrado and other places.
In remarks, FDA Managing Director, C. Mike Doryen, said country like Costa Rica is making millions of dollars from their mangrove forest and Liberia can do the same.
“As a result of that country’s potential; it is the most celebrated eco-tourism center of the world. What we see here in our mangrove swamps are also worth billions upon billions of dollars from this natural land,” he said.
But unfortunate for Liberia, people are encroaching on the wetlands causing it to shrink. “This has to stop. We want to laud the efforts of the EPA, who mobilize the funding, and its partners for these initiatives.”
The signboards are meant to create the needed awareness, but he said the exercise will go beyond symbolism. “We got to be very proactive in protecting our mangrove resources. I can tell you that we will have regular patrols to ensure that illegal structures are removed. And we will try to replenish those places that are damaged.”
Eventually we will restore the sanctity of our mangrove forest basically for numbers of purposes. “We need this because it is good for eco-tourism. This is very good for the carbon market, which brings in twice or thrice the amount of money obtain from the sale of carbon from the rainforest.”