Urban, Rural Montserrado Flooding, a Perenial Nightmare for Decades

A view of the entrance to LEC’s substation in Paynesville which becomes a lake every rainy season for over thirty years

Perennial flooding in communities around Monrovia and Paynesville cities, as well as remote settlements of Montserrado County, can be described as an endless nightmare for the inhabitants.

According to the 2008 census conducted by the Liberia Institute of Statistics and GeoInformation Service (LISGIS), Monrovia and Paynesville are playing host to more than one million inhabitants, since the Liberian civil crisis ended in 2003. It is believed that the population of these cities may have almost doubled.

Such a large population increase owing to rural and urban migration points to Liberians’ drive to seek greener pastures in the two cities where all the socioeconomic opportunities have always been heavily concentrated. This unrelenting migration from “upcountry” to Monrovia and Paynesville has taken its toll on an infrastructure that was already obsolete and inadequate for the much smaller population occupying these cities before the civil war.

Monrovia and Paynesville barely maintain the structural consistency of properly laid out cities with well defined streets supported by a sound water and sewer system. The drainage systems, where they do exist, are poorly maintained. The lack of building standards and blatant disregard for municipal regulations further exacerbate the poor quality of living conditions in the most congested residential areas and business centers of these cities.

To make matters worse, the inadequate provision of dumpsters throughout the communities and business areas make the drainage ways vulnerable to the dumping of a huge amount of trash. Every imaginable type of garbage from bio-degradable waste to plastic water sacs which after quenching the thirst of thousands of inhabitants a day are cast in these drainage canals by pedestrians and residents. More plastic bags for carrying groceries and other purchased items, pealings and other food waste end up in the drains in spite of “No Dumping” signs. With no recycling system in place, much of this plastic ends up in the drainage canals and dumpsites that mushroom everywhere.

With the lack of constant inspection of building construction, both makeshift and concrete structures are built over drainage ways and in alleys, further blocking the free flow of water to natural destinations, causing a backup that floods many communities. Basically, most of the drains or trenches are clogged owing to the lack of sustained maintenance by the Ministry of Public Works and the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC) for about thirty years.

Added to the foregoing causes of flooding is the unpredictable weather patterns resulting from climate change. The destruction of the Liberian forests primarily for charcoal for domestic use, has also resulted in mudslides and flooding. In Monrovia, the official seat of the Liberian Government, drainages in several parts of the city have remained clogged and not maintained for many decades. Many of these drainages have outlived their usefulness and need to be replaced.

Months ago, a drainage was paved in this area of Red Light leading to Parker Paint. However it has now become a dumpsite with no sign of the drain now covered by a mixture of garbage and mud.

After thirty minutes of heavy rainfall in Monrovia, flood water containing contaminated garbage dumped by residents and some marketers add to an already serious sanitation crisis in Monrovia and its environs. Also in Central Monrovia, one of the largest commercial hubs of the nation, several streets and clustered communities are submerged in water even after an hour of rainfall. Top officials of the Public Works Ministry have on occasion told news reporters that work has been carried out on some of the drainages in Monrovia and its environs. However, many residents have told the Daily Observer recently that such claims by officials of the MPW are far from the realities on the ground as the flooding continues each time it rains in Monrovia.

However, the most visible threat and worry to residents, vehicle owners and even the nation’s energy provider the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) substation situated at Joe Bar in Paynesville is the flooding and its attending implications for residents, commuters, pedestrians and LEC’s own generators and installations at that site. The Daily Observer and other news outlets have on countless occasions highlighted the grave threat to the power facilities at the Joe Bar LEC substation posed by the large water pond settling in front of the substation after every downpour. But, sadly, no action has been taken to avoid the impending danger to life and the new facility, let alone the financial burden that an accident could impose on the entity.

Residents trying to keep their dwellings dry with sand bags as water rises in the community after every rainfall, leaving a breeding ground for mosquitoes, flies and other insects hazardous to their health.

Many Liberians who recently spoke to the Daily Observer about the LEC substation drainage system at Joe Bar noted that the situation has remained unattended for nearly thirty years and no reason(s) has been given for such a long period of neglect of that area in Paynesville. Attempts to obtain comments from residents of the affected areas were met with criticisms, anger and frustration though some of the residents and business owners are partly responsible for the flood woes over the years.

An official of the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation told the Daily Observer Wednesday that, some plans are being finalized in November this year to rehabilitate some of the clogged drainages in Monrovia and Paynesville.

For the Ministry of Public Works, Public Affairs Director Jesefu Morris Keita also told the Daily Observer Thursday that MPW is working on plans in November this year to rehabilitate the clogged drainages in the most critical effected parts of Monrovia and Paynesville. Meanwhile, rehabilitation work yesterday started on the clogged drainage at the Joe Bar LEC substation in Paynesville. It remains to be seen after the next several rainfalls whether the repairs are permanent.

Another hard hit flood prone area in Paynesville is the Zayzay Community, a detour paved road that connects to the Parker Paint Junction leading to Kakata City in Margibi County. Most of the houses at the front views of the Zayzay Community were built in swamp areas and as a result when there is a heavy downpour, some of the houses are submerged in the filthy flood water, sometimes for several days. In some instances, occupants of the affected homes remain indoors for several hours enduring a hardship and inconvenience in that clustered settlement in Paynesville.

Some of the affected persons in the Zayzay Community told the Daily Observer that during the rainy season, they spend sleepless nights as their homes and businesses are on many occasions engulfed in the disease infected flood water. Ironically, some of them admitted that they were warned not to build in the flood prone areas by officials of the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) and the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC). A Bar and restaurant owner of Zayzay Community, Mrs. Precious Hawa Duncan, expressed regret about building her business in a flood prone area causing her to encounter enormous difficulties during the rainy season. “I must admit that I did not seek the advice of a professional construction engineer prior to building this big and well-furnished bar and restaurant in this ugly area in Zayzay Community,” Mrs. Duncan lamented.

In the same Zayzay Community, a well-furnished house was seen submerged in the flood water a fortnight ago leaving occupants completely stranded inside the house for several hours. “We are going to remain in this house until the flood water goes down considerably in order for us to go out and buy some food for the day,” occupant Joe B. Beamen noted.


  1. It is regrettable to see our lawmakers and leaders demonstrate cavalier and nonchalant attitudes when our capital city is so dilapidated, filthy, unsanitary, overpopulated, and lacks proper closed drainage system.

    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. I remember quite recently when a visionary Architect and City Planner, Mr. Adolphus G. McCritty and others, spoke out about Monrovia’s outdated, dilapidated, overpopulated and poorly planned city.

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

    In that letter entitled, “The Herculean Task Of Re-building 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.”

    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 leaders to be elected. Leaders that are not afraid to make radical changes for economic growth and prosperity for all the Liberian people.

    Progressive countries like Nigeria and Ivory Coast realized that their former capitals were overly utilized and overly populated. This realization led them to rebuild new capital cities: Abuja and Yamoussoukro. Those old capital cities (Lagos and Abidjan) are mainly used as 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 to build a new capital city! Monrovia could be called or used as Liberia’s financial capital.

    We all know why Monrovia is overcrowded (the civil war), but it’s time to do some reverse engineering to remedy the poor drainage system and the overpopulation situation in Monrovia and its environs:

    Namely: by economic diversification (reduce Liberia’s reliance solely on extractive industries by increasing private/public sectors, and by increasing private investments); radical decentralization (give county leaders more autonomy to develop their counties); reduce Liberia’s high illiteracy rate; develop rural areas by increasing employment opportunities in other parts of the country to motivate people to leave Monrovia; enforce zoning laws; enforce the rule of law for all citizens and corrupt government officials; and last but not least develop an inclusive Liberian policy: a Liberian policy of not excluding any Liberian on the grounds of gender, tribe, race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, or disability.

    Liberia is not a poor country. Liberia is a country that has been poorly managed over 170 years!!!!


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