Concerned official seeks Government’s support to avoid environmental tragedy
The Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) and the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) have combined efforts to clean the beaches and surrounding waterways in several communities in and around Monrovia under a plan styled “Reclaiming the Beaches and Waterways Project.”
The communities include New Kru Town, Banjor Hotel Africa, West Point, Mamba Point, Congo Town, and ELWA.
The government had earlier provided support to the beach component, and as a result created jobs for youths and others in the affected waterways’ communities, such as New Kru Town, Banjor Hotel Africa. However Doe Community, situated on the banks of the Mesurado River, did not receive any support to carry our similar clean-up activities.
The LMA eventually withdrew from the project. However the Liberian government, through the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, kept the program going. Currently, the project has a back log of 10 months of unpaid arrears owed to 1,800 contract workers for services rendered.
Despite its dismal financial outlook, the chairperson of the group George A. Young Jr., is requesting for increased funding to keep the project going.
“The waterways in New Kru Town, for example,” Young said, “are still being used by many residents and others to attend to nature’s call and it is dangerous to the health of the people.”
The situation has claimed the attention of the nearby operators of the Borough Funeral Services (BFS), whose deputy manager John T. Blackie has expressed concern about the negative environmental impact on the community.
According to Mr. Yarkpai Keller, Special Assistant to the Borough Funeral Service’s Chief Executive Officer Oretha Momo, whose funeral home is located near the waterways in New Kru Town, hundreds of people on a daily basis defecate at the waterway from the early morning to the evening hours, thus creating severe environmental challenges to the community.
“Those who toilet at the waterways, claim that they don’t have toilet facilities in their homes,” said Mr. Keller. “And our attempt to dissuade them from toileting there is met with abuses. People who come to claim the remains of their loved ones are disturbed because of the bad odor that the wind blows across the area.”
Young said his group can take the challenge to get the waterways cleaned, but without toilet facilities at certain communities in New Kru Town the problem will continue to exist.
“Once the government provides funds to get the waterways’ section done, we can recruit residents to tackle it; but we must be honest to say that the building of toilet facilities in the area is fundamental,” Young said.
In fact, according to Young, the former Unity Party government under President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf issued an Executive Order on January 9, 2014, constituting a task force against the abuse and encroachment on beachfront, waterways and wetlands.
The chair of the task force was the chairman of the Land Commission and co-chaired by the chairman of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The members include the ministers of finance and development planning, public works, justice, internal affairs, lands, mines and energy, inspector general of the Liberia National Police (LNP), local municipal authorities and the minister of information.
Among others, he said the task force has the mandate to provide technical and administrative support to the inter-agency committee on the encroachment on wetlands, beaches, and river-fronts.
“The task force must also provide support to offices of local authorities, including township commissioners, to ensure that citizens and residents adhere and conform to prescribed and established policy and regulatory regimes for managing and regulating the use and conservation of wetlands, beaches and river fronts,” he said.
He said President George Weah’s government should be reminded that it rode to victory on the popular support of slum community dwellers, who entertained the hope that his administration would provide jobs for them.
“That’s why we want the government to revisit Executive Order Number 68, reinforce the mandate and put money into the sector because cleaning the beaches has provided a valuable source of income to slum dwellers,” Young said.
Noting another positive growth in the cleaning of beaches project, Young said: “Since the project began, we have been able to reduce the presence of waterborne diseases and today residents can attest to the fact that diseases such as typhoid, cholera and malaria are not prevalent in slum communities like before.”