The only two-lane bridge over the Junk River that connects the Roberts International Airport (RIA) with Monrovia is now in danger as a result of alleged sand mining in the river, residents have informed the Daily Observer.
The leadership of the community, represented by Atty. George Kailondo told a team of investigative reporters over the weekend that sand mining is threatening the life-span of the bridge, his multi-million dollars residential area, the Baracuda entertainment center and other facilities in the area.
Atty. Kailondo has meanwhile expressed frustration over the situation, adding, “This has to stop or else the ELWA/RIA highway will eventually encounter a sudden closure when the bridge over this Junk River collapses.”
While pointing in the direction of the many cracks on the wall of his house and the foundation of the fence around the house, Atty. Kailondo said the sand mining has continued to the extent that even the habitat of crocodiles may have been destroyed, exposing them and the fish to extreme danger.
“The sand is so much under the river so the Chinese-owned company involved in the exercise uses many other sand compressors to navigate the river as a means to suck mostly the rich portion of it,” said an ‘environmentalist’ who did not want to be identified, but was hired by Kailondo and the other residents who claimed that their properties are being affected by the exercise.
Mr. Prince Johnson (the son of the late D. Roosevelt Johnson) the general manager of the Goodrich Incorporated, a company that is at the center of the alleged sand mining, denied reports of the danger affecting the river and the neighborhood.
He said “We gave the Chinese company the legal right to mine sand in the Junk River and their mining sand is not putting any property as well as the bridge as risk.”
He told the Daily Observer via mobile phone that his company obtained a permit from three concerned government agencies including the Liberia Environmental Agency (EPA).
“I can’t respond to whatever claims an individual may have against my company for mining, because I was duly licensed. So whatever issue Mr. Kailondo and his people have, let them take it to the government and those agencies including the EPA, but not to me,” Mr. Johnson said and hung up.
Kailondo claimed he has earlier complained to the authorities of the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy (MLME).
His claim could not be confirmed by the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy Public Relations Director, Joseph Matadly. Mr. Matadly said since reporters called him to confirm the report he would take up the issue this week.
However, he said companies doing river sand mining are duly registered with the government, except for those doing beach mining.
“As of the bridge or properties being affected, I cannot speak to that, but will take up the issue Monday, to the director of mines at the ministry,” Mr. Matadly assured the Daily Observer yesterday.
Aloysius K. Kotee, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Manager for Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Unit, could not be reached as his phone was switched off throughout the weekend, but an official in his office promised to provide appropriate response on the issue.
“I will inform Mr. Kotee to launch immediate investigation into the concerns of the residents,” the EPA source said.