Joaquin M. Sendolo and Tina Mehnpein
The road works from the Coca Cola Factory to ELWA Junction and from the Freeport of Monrovia to Red-light are progressing at an appreciable pace. Men are seen daily operating earthmoving and other heavy-duty machines, compacting crushed rocks and laying asphalt.
This latest development is expected to give a facelift to the bustling Red-Light commercial hub and Liberians cannot wait to see the roads completed and hopefully be relieved of traffic congestion that usually occurs in the area.
However, maintenance of the roads in terms of garbage control remains a major challenge. Though the first two-lane stretch from Red-Light to Freeport has since been completed, it has become littered in the garbage.
The concrete drainage built to avoid erosion from damaging the road is now a dumpsite for local dwellers and sellers in the area. Not only would dumping dirt in the drainages obstruct the flow of water; drainages clogged with dirt can affect the road works by causing puddles and floods, especially during the rainy season. The puddles and floods, then, could also result in public health risks such as malaria.
While the road works continue, empty water plastic sachets litter the compacted crushed rocks without control. Littering, considered a public nuisance and a misdemeanor in other countries, is a care-free habit in Liberia, especially in the absence of public dustbins.
Red-Light is a commercial district where thousands of sellers and buyers converge daily to transact business and, as a result, the area, especially where the road construction work is ongoing, remains mired in filth as sellers dump dirt almost everywhere. Vegetable and fruit sellers dump their biodegradable waste on the newly constructed road without remorse, as onlookers wonder how this modern will be after completion. City ordinance enforcement is weak with no plan disclosed by the Paynesville City Corporation as to how it will maintain sanity in the area.
Efforts made to contact the PCC about its plan of action for restoring sanity to sanitation at Red-Light were not answered.
Along the stretch from Red-Light to Freeport, flowers were planted for the beautification of the road, but most of the flowers have been rooted out by unknown persons.
Comments from road workers and sellers at Red-Light do not favor the habit of the uncontrollable spread of dirt, amid such major infrastructural work going on. The 6.10 stretch of road is the entry point to Monrovia, Liberia’s capital.
According to Kelvin Clarke, one kilometer of the road has been completed from Coca Cola Factory to Parker Paint Junction, and the main 4-lane stretch from Parker Paint Junction to the Somalia Drive intersection which also constitutes one kilometer is the second phase that they are working on.
“We have done the first phase of the project, that is, to lay the first layer of the asphalt and are about to lay the second layer, and this project is expected to be completed in 2021,” Clarke said. He added that working in the area is very difficult that every day they come to work they meet stockpiles of dirt on the road that they have built, and they have to sweep the dirt before commencing work.
James Kerkula, a vendor along the road, welcomed the road project and expressed his disdain over the poor sanitation conditions at Red-Light, which he said may hinder new road reflecting the true modern look of the road when the project is completed.
Sharon Favor Bracewell of the Vision Guard Security thinks that relocating marketers from the Red-Light is the best solution to restoring sanity at this major entry point to Monrovia. She said the Omega market is being designated for Red-Light marketers and transport unions and, until they go there, Red-Light will always be filthy and unattractive, despite the modern roads being constructed.
“See all in the culverts. They are just dumping dirt there even as the people go on with the road work, and we are tired of being in this dirt from time to time,” she said.
The Japanese company constructing the Somalia Drive Road is also compelled to clean the dirt spread on the road before spreading the crushed rocks and asphalt. A worker there said said when they get to work in the morning, they come across bags of dirt on the project site and they have to clean it.
Negotiations leading to the construction of the two 4-lane roads were made during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In 2012 the Japanese Government reached a $50 million agreement with the Liberian Government to construct Somalia Drive Road. The second phase of this project was reached in 2017 to construct the other two lanes currently under construction, bringing to a total of US$100 million for the entire project.
The agreement leading to the Coca Cola Factory-ELWA Junction corridor was also legislated in 2017 with financial support to come from the Government of Liberia and other partners, including the World Bank. It is in the tune of $47 million and is expected to be completed in 2021.