Public Works, EPA, Lands, Mines and Energy Using Outdated Laws

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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of Public Works, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy, are using outdated laws that expose the city of Monrovia to haphazard and sub-standard building constructions.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 He said the country’s outdated zoning laws were crafted in 1957, and they are irrelevant to the development of Monrovia.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.

The Ministry of Public Works wants this wall to be torn down. “Where were they when the owners decided to build this wall?” McCritty asked.

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.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. A. McCritty; thanks! for your observatioins.’Better late than never. It has taken us 170 years to finally recognize that Monrovia is built like a puzzle. We have yet to figure out how to get around in Monrovia; with no organized building code or address system. As painful as it may be, it is absolutely necessary, to restructure and build our Cities, Towns and Villages properly-to STANDARD. This is the 21st century. We are way too far behind. Nobody should be allowed to build any structures for dwelings or other purposes with out approvals from the proper authority(s). Said authorities should include “The Liberian Institute of Archictects”; for consultations. Liberia should also stop using Zinc for roofing. Instead, let’s use specially treated plywood reinforced with ROOFING TILES. Zinc gets rustic and ugly. All Dwellings must be required to have necessary facilities. Landlords must be required to remove all GARBAGE from their premises. Make it a LAW. Let there be a NO SLUMP POLICY for Liberia. Yes! We can do it.

  2. An anonymous philosopher once said, “When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, See! This our fathers did for us.”

    Well, Well. It takes visionary Architects and City Planners like Mr. McCritty and others to speak out about Monrovia’s outdated, dilapidated, overpopulated and poorly planned city.

    As far back as September 16, 2005, in The Perspective online Magazine, Mr. McCritty wrote a letter on the fundamentals of Liberia’s outdated infrastructures.

    In his letter entitled, “The Herculean Task Of Rebuilding The Infrastructure Of The Country”, McCritty talked about the need to upgrade our “Urban Planning, City Planning, Mass Transportation, Storm Drainage Systems, Sanitary Sewer Lines, Underground Utilities, Secondary Power Distribution Systems, and the list could go on and on.” It is nice to have a veteran Architect back in Liberia.

    As we can see it is indeed a “Herculean Task” to rebuild Liberia’s destroyed infrastructures, most especially Monrovia, a city that is densely populated. It is time for new progressive leadership to be elected. A leadership that is not afraid to make radical changes for economic growth and prosperity for all the Liberian people.

    Progressive countries like Nigeria and Ivory Coast realized the overutilization of their former capital cities that led them to rebuild new capital cities: Abuja and Yamoussoukro. Those old capital cities (Lagos and Abidjan) are mainly financial centers and residents of foreign embassies.

    As Monrovia outlived its usefulness in terms of overcrowding, poorly planned, and outdated infrastructures, it is time to follow the example of our African counterparts. It is time for a new capital city! Monrovia could be called our financial capital.

    For Liberia to implement its “Modernization Policy”, it is time for future leaders to start thinking of relocating our Capital. Think of a strategic location (not too close to a border) for a new capital city of Liberia…..one that will be well planned and laid out for storm drainage, for power distribution, for sanitation, for water distribution, for street demarcations, for zoning ordinances and just to name a few.

    This relocation of our capital city will be a massive infrastructure project that could serve as an economic boost for the country by employing thousands of Liberians: thus pulling away thousands of unemployed laborers from the city of Monrovia and other places with high unemployment.

    This depopulation strategy of Monrovia will give way to simultaneously develop Monrovia as a major financial city in West Africa.

    After visionary leaders have built our new capital city, built our financial capital/Monrovia, built our massive rail transport system, built our roads, built our sea ports, built our regional airports, built our power grids, built our water systems, built our hospitals, built our public schools, built our tourist industries, built our public markets, and last but not least, revised our dated constitution, then we say See! This our fathers/mothers did for us.”

    For now, my soul bleeds for Mother Liberia!!!!

  3. Mr. McCritty, I thank you 100% times for the clear and simple analysis you gave at
    that meeting at the NHA. I think Liberia should immediately pass a budget to use
    simple and executable analysis for the good of the country. Do we have sewer
    treatment plant first in Monrovia before the rest of the country? How is the sewer
    disposed of in Monrovia? Please check that out and include it into your analysis.

    By the way how are your family? James McCritty’s wife Mumsy, Ann Bright and I
    used to work for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines on Broad Street long ago, even before
    the war.

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