Facing an Existential Crisis — Our Very Existence Under Threat of Sea Erosion
By L. N. Khumalo
The view of the Atlantic Ocean from Tubman Boulevard on any given day is nothing less than picturesque. On a sunny day, it is a beautiful solid blue.
The walk from the main road to the ocean is probably half a mile long; but not for long. A few years from now, we may just be driving along that coastal highway with the sea in full, unhindered view.
But don’t let that picture fool you. That distance is masking the disaster that lies along Liberia’s coastline.
Go closer; up close and personal. Take a walk along the beach. This is not the picture you saw from the road. This is ugly. It mirrors a war zone. The sea has waged war against Liberia, and Liberia is not fighting back. Mansions that used to exist along the coastline have been battered by the sea as if ravaged by weapons of war. The coconut trees too have succumbed. Very precious few are left, and the proverbial ax, albeit watery, is already at their very visible roots. It seems by this time next year, they’ll be gone. There will be no sign they were ever even there.
The problem is at least two-fold. For one thing, sea levels are rising worldwide due to melting ice glaciers in the North. At the same time, we in Liberia are exacerbating the problem, almost inviting sea erosion by mining all of the sand that protects our coastline. In fact, on any given day, one can find block-making factories, so to speak, along the coast in what is left of those very houses damaged by the sea!
Where is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)? Where is the Ministry of Public Works? Where is the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy?
Most homeowners seem to have boarded up what is left of their properties and moved elsewhere. Other properties have simply been abandoned and are now contributing to the crime rate. They are being used as ghettos. The graffiti on the walls makes that clear.
Visible on the coast are huge red boulders that have apparently been brought in by the truckload in an effort to solve the problem, but alas, too late. The sea has undermined and passed around the imposing rocks as if to say, “Excuse me please, thank you.”
This is nothing short of an existential crisis. How can we build development if every structure and light pole is to be swallowed up by the sea in a few years’ time? The new ministerial complex, for example, is already under threat before its completion. This calls for a pause, and for a re-thinking of what we have planned for in terms of development. We need help and fast. Time is running out. How badly do we want it to get before we take action and fight back? Do we want to wake up one morning and find our mattresses gone from under us?
As a matter of fact, many Liberians already live that reality every rainy season and have done so for years.