EPA on ‘Rescue Mission’ for West Pointers

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Though the government faces financial constraint, EPA is soliciting funding to erect coastal defenses in West Point.

West Point, Monrovia’s largest slum faces imminent danger as a result of the rapid encroachment of the Atlantic Ocean, which has already washed away several other homes.

Due to the situation, the government has finally asked residents in ‘red zone’ to evacuate dangerous spots to avoid fatality. But the government says it needs US$40 million to secure the entire township from the rising sea levels.

Though the government faces financial constraint, EPA is soliciting funding to erect coastal defenses in West Point.

Therefore the EPA has embarked on an effort to source funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which addresses climate change related problems. It relies on the support of bilateral and multi-lateral partners to deliver and catalyze transformational change in developing countries.

On Thursday, September 5, EPA and its partners, as well as other stakeholders, validated the Monrovia Metropolitan Coastal Resilience Project (MCRP), an initiative that would cost over US$28 million that seeks to address the issue of the violent rapid sea erosion taking place at the Township of West Point.

The violent waves from the sea, which have caused erosion, are now a perennial problem for the township that is home to about 75,000 people.

In August this year, more than 75 homes were washed away by the violent sea waves, but if the Coastal Resilience Project is completed, it will save the township from total collapse.

EPA executive director Nathaniel T. Blama Sr., said that West Point needs to be rescued, and it should be an all hands on deck mission. “Everyone must be involved in this rescue mission,” Blama declared.

He said with the help of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the EPA is trying to source funding for the project, “but our government needs to play its part as well.”

West Point, he said, was initially not a priority for the EPA when it comes to saving coastal communities from erosion, but because Buchanan City, New Kru Town and Hotel Africa are being listed as emergencies for intervention, the EPA is pushing that line.

Blama said as the EPA was trying to do pilot projects in Buchanan and New Kru Town, the erosion in West Point became too dangerous to ignore.

“Things have now shifted, and so are the priority issues. So we have placed West Point as a priority. We, therefore, have to act now,” he said.

EPA Executive Director, Nathaniel Blama, Sr. speaking at the validation exercise

Unlike Buchanan City and New Kru Town, where pilot projects took place, Blama says the EPA along with other line ministries coupled with developmental partners have conducted some feasibility studies regarding the rapid erosion affecting the West Point community.

Also, some of the stakeholders said that the feasibility study, design and technical works for the project have been completed, but GCF is yet to approve funding for the actual works to begin.

Assistant Public Works Minister for Operations KauStella Kialain, said the West Point situation is something that needs to be addressed.

“We cannot have our citizens to be at so much risk. There are many houses that are being washed away. We’ve got to stop it,” he said.

National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) executive director, Henry O. Williams, said disaster is very critical, “and there is a need for more attention to curb the situation in West Point.”

Stakeholders at the validation in a group photo

The Commissioner of the township, Roland C. Whea, could not hold back his joy upon hearing the “good news.”

“We are glad to hear that our people need to be rescued from this ugly situation. Our township is fast disappearing under the sea,” he told reporters in an exclusive interview.

He said that the construction of the defense system will bring much needed relief to the thousands of people, who are currently hopeless and have got no where to go.

According to some accounts, the early beginnings of West Point was spurred by the relocation of Kru Town to a new area northwest of Monrovia now called New Kru Town during the construction of the Freeport of Monrovia. But this did not stop some stubborn residents of Kru Town, particularly fishermen, from moving on to the sandy expanse (Pison Kloh) situated near the estuary of the Du River and the Atlantic Ocean from where they could more easily carry on their fishing activities while maintaining proximity to the Waterside market for sale of their daily catch.

This is how temporary structures began to spring up and, before long, Pison Kloh, now known as West Point, became a densely populated stretch of beach sand and home to thousands, aside from its transformation into a commercial hotspot for the sale of locally produced agricultural commodities, particularly fish. Many migrants to Monrovia during the period, between 1949 (when the Port was completed) and 1960, sought a home in West Point, a previous report noted.

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