‘Encroachments on Wetlands A Recipe for Disaster’

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"The wetland is there to protect us," he continued, "but sadly, we are clearing it so that little eruption from the oceans may cause the unthinkable and unimaginable disaster for us here," says EPA Executive Director Nathaniel Blama

On World Wetlands Day EPA alarms over severe environmental threats

The Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Nathaniel Blama, has said that encroachments and pollution of wetlands in the city of Monrovia and its environs presents a severe environmental threat.

According to Mr. Blama, this unfortunate situation may lead the city down a path of disaster with huge consequences if nothing is done to halt the encroachments on the wetlands.

He made these remarks on Monday in Paynesville, as the EPA and partners observed this year’s World Wetlands Day.

Making a reference to Cyclones Idai and Kenneth that recently ravaged some countries in Eastern Africa, displacing tens of thousands of families and leaving many in need of basic and essential supplies, the EPA boss noted that Monrovia now finds itself below sea level, making it more disaster prone, especially if the wrath of nature is provoked.

The two storms in East Africa brought widespread flooding and the destruction of almost 780,000 hectares of agriculture crops.

Cyclone Idai left families in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe facing devastation, and hundreds of thousands of children across the three countries in need of urgent assistance. Six weeks later, Cyclone Kenneth made landfall in Mozambique, bringing powerful winds and heavy rain. Many children lost their homes, schools, friends and loved ones.

Director Blama noted that the Wetlands Day event was aimed at creating awareness that the massive clearance of the mangrove swamp or wetlands that is supposed to help absorb shocks from eruptions of the oceans makes the citizenry more vulnerable to disasters.

“We know that massive clearance of the wetlands makes citizens more vulnerable. Thousands of people die while hundreds of millions of properties are destroyed,” he added.

He said they have established that a substantial portion of Monrovia is below sea level. “It is established that we are below sea level. So imagine what will happen if there is a little eruption in the oceans. What will we do?” he asked.

“The wetland is there to protect us,” he continued, “but sadly, we are clearing it so that little eruption from the oceans may cause the unthinkable and unimaginable disaster for us here. This is why the EPA and its partners continue to advise and warn our people from clearing the swamp. We do ourselves more harm than good when we cut the mangrove.”

He noted that wetlands are not dumpsites and wastelands. As such, back-filling wetlands for the purpose of constructing buildings is illegal. Blama called on other stakeholders to join the EPA to help discourage residents from building in the swamp.

However, the Loss of biodiversity was also a point of discussion at the cerebration. Human activity is leading to the extinction of important species and habitats and loss of bio-diversity.

“Ecosystems, which took millions of years to perfect, are in danger when any species population is decimating,” the EPA said, adding that balance of natural processes like pollination is crucial to the survival of the eco-system and human activity threatens the same. The destruction of the mangrove swamp and the coral reefs in the various oceans, which support the rich marine life, are critical battle that needs to be won.

Serving as the keynote speaker at the event, former Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, Eugene Shannon, said wetlands play an important role in the processes that keep landscapes healthy and productive. “They support industries such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism by supplying water for crops stock and people, maintaining water quality, providing habitat for commercial species and having cultural and recreational value,” he said.

The wetland, he said, hosts a huge variety of lives, protects coastlines, and provide natural defense against river flooding or storm surges, as well as stores carbon dioxide to regulate climate change.

He noted that filling wetlands is terribly not sustainable for the environment. “Mangroves filter pollutants and trap sediments originating from the land,” he added.

He warned against the constant cutting of mangroves in the wetlands, because, according to him mangroves protect shorelines from damaging storms and whirlwinds, waves and floods.

“By clearing the mangrove, you are cutting the lifespan of our environment because mangrove prevents erosion by stabilizing sediments with their tangled roots system,” he said, adding, “mangroves are meant to maintain water quality and clarity.”

According to the EPA, miners are destroying wetlands in rural areas and said they are killing several species by the massive mining of gold and diamonds in wetlands. The Agency also noted that population growth is a serious threat to wetlands, because many people in search for land to dwell have illegally constructed on wetlands.

Meanwhile, this year’s celebration was intended to focus worldwide attention on the importance of wetlands, their values and benefits.

Prior to the indoor program at the Bethel A.G.M Church on the SKD Boulevard, residents of the Taylor Island in the Kpelle Town Community in Paynesville, joined some staff of the EPA to carry out a cleanup exercise near wetlands in the areas while creating awareness at the same time.

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