The Ministry of Public Works, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy, are using outdated laws that expose the city of Monrovia to haphazard and sub-standard building constructions.
That was the position of Mr. Adolphus McCritty, president of the Liberian Institute of Architects, when he spoke at a one-day ‘Round Table Discussion on Affordable Housing & Slum Upgrading in Greater Monrovia,’ held recently in the conference room of the National Housing Authority.
In a presentation on ‘Housing Design Perspective: The Implications of Designing Dense and Fewer Cities,’ he said the Ministry of Public Works does not have a functional zoning regulation.
Though, he said, there is a zoning department at the Ministry of Public Works, it exists in name only. He said the country’s outdated zoning laws were crafted in 1957, and they are irrelevant to the development of Monrovia.
“We are in 2017 and we are using zoning laws made in 1957 and this should tell you why Monrovia is just how you see it,” he said. What is also missing, he said, is the lack of a ‘building code’ to guide the city.
A building code, he said, is a set of standards enforced by a local government agency for the protection of public safety, health, etc., as in the structural safety of buildings (building code), health requirements for plumbing, ventilation (sanitary code or health code) and the specifications for fire escapes or exits (fire code).
McCritty insisted that it is important for Liberia to have a zoning map that can show the various zoning districts in the country. “Generally a zoning map is created by an ordinance and is always kept current,” he said.
A zoning map shows the number of districts into which the locality is divided, and the status and usage of each district. In addition, a zoning map must contain sufficient information to permit a person of ordinary intelligence to locate on the map any specific legally described tract of land, and to determine with reasonable accuracy and precision the boundaries of any zoning district.
The absence of a zoning map is also the cause for many land conflicts that are reported throughout the country, he said. He said the drainage system in Monrovia was built in the 1960s, and are so clogged they result in central Monrovia always being flooded “because rain water does not have any direction to go whenever there is rain.”
“In central Monrovia, there are storm drainages and sewer drainages but both are directed at the same outlet and we need a radical reconstruction of both drainage systems in addition to various detention ponds to ensure that Monrovia is not flooded,” he noted.
McCritty said MPW, EPA, and Lands & Mines have ineffective response systems, and that is why many buildings are already constructed before the MPW sends officers to paint them with an inscription to tear them down.
“That behavior should draw lawsuits against the government for tearing people’s homes and areas down. Where was the Ministry of Public Works when the people were constructing these buildings?” he asked.
He said he regrets that permits for construction are issued by the Ministry of Public Works before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assesses the environment.
He told the gathering of 31 participants, including representatives from EPA, MPW, Ministry of Internal Affairs, USAID, UN-Habitat, MFDP among others that throughout the city, people are building on wetlands without a clue of the ripple effect and their environmental problems.
McCritty also regrets that the major failure he has observed of the three government agencies is their inability to talk to each other to find common solutions to tackle problems affecting the city of Monrovia.
Contributing, representatives from the Ministry of Public Works, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ministry of Lands & Mines spoke about challenges that have affected their effectiveness and hoped that discussing what they should be doing would be an important means to keep them committed to their service delivery to the Liberian people.