Flood Disasters in Monrovia Are Self-imposed; Let Us Change Our Behavior towards the Environment

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As the rainy season commences with expectation of heavy rainfall from now to October, we are most likely to see headlines such as: “Many made homeless by flood; let government come to our ill” (meaning aid), etc.

Daily Observer reporter Edwin M. Fayia, III reported in yesterday’s edition that some communities in flood prone areas in Monrovia are struggling to keep the flood at bay with the use of sand bags. In the report, our reporter also noted with emphasis that most areas occupied by flood victims are wetlands, places on which the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) policy bans the erection of structures.

Also worsening the condition is the uncontrollable dumping of plastic and other wastes into drainages by community dwellers in their respective municipalities. The introduction of plastic sacks for mineral water in Liberia following the war, coupled with the indiscriminate disposal of garbage including plastic waste just about anywhere are key factors responsible for the clogging of drainages and increased risks of flooding.

There are individuals, who deliberately encroach on wetlands erecting structures without regard for the consequences or without fear of reproach by the Environmental Protection Agency. In some cases, people deliberately erect structures over drainages, thus preventing the free flow of natural waterways and public sewage.

Evidence of the effects of such human behavior can be seen in the periodic flooding of the road near the Freeport of Monrovia. A lot of people could not use the Somalia Drive stretch to Freeport early this week because the intersection of Freeport and this road was flooded to the point where vehicular traffic came to a grinding halt.

Although some blamed it on the newly constructed road, others also attributed it to the dumping of dirt into drainages on the roadside, clogging said drainages. Another contributing factor to the annual flooding in Monrovia could be blamed on government’s failure to enforce and regulate existing laws restricting harmful environmental practices.

For instance, the EPA has a regulation that bans people from building on wetlands, but this policy is constantly violated in the presence of the Environmental Protection Agency as individuals continue to build in wetlands.

The City Ordinance Law of Monrovia prohibits littering, but how effective is the Sanitation Division of the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) in enforcing this law? Some of these entities too, lack the technical, logistical and financial support to meet up with their tasks.

On the other hand just why do Liberians seem not to learn from adverse consequences of their behavior and continue to repeat the same thing year after year? In the past, the Daily Observer had sympathized with flood victims in its editorials and called on government and other philanthropic organizations to help address their plight.

For now, we cannot help but state that the problem of flooding, aside from genuine “acts of God”, is a self-imposed disaster that can be addressed not by giving out relief items, but by encouraging and inducing attitudinal and behavioral change.

Learning, according to Human Behavior Management science, is a change in knowledge and behavior as a result of experience. Since experience teaches us that dumping dirt in drainages, building on wetlands, mining sand on beaches amongst others, contribute heavily to the perennial problem of flooding, it is about time that we change our behaviors as a way of discouraging harmful environmental practices that contribute to flooding.

On World Environment Day, we published an editorial questioning whether government is making practical efforts to restrict the sale and use of plastics as steps toward protecting the environment and aquatic life.

In said editorial, we acknowledged some African countries including Kenya and Rwanda, whose governments have taken tangible steps to abolish the use of plastics in line with United Nations Environmental policy recommendations and enforce strict sanitation standards for their people and places.

In the face of evidence showing the harm caused to the environment by the dumping of plastic wastes especially into drainages and waterways, we hope the Liberian Government will work hard to control the importation of plastic which invariably ends up as waste dumped into drainages and waterways in order to prevent an impending self-imposed disaster from unfolding.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Great editorial. Great warning. Hope the citizenry and relevant authorities take heed. Of course, flood disasters in Monrovia can e attributed to many drivers: geophysical forces, structural inadequacies, absence of an integrated waste disposal system, and lack of enforcement of building codes where people are flouting zonal laws and building in waterways.
    I think there is a whole social aspect here: what is making people to live and build homes in potentially hazardous areas like waterways when they are aware that heavy rainfall will lead to their homes getting flooded?
    Then there is the need for the public authorities (especially municipal authorities) to become more involved with waste management and the maintenance of infrastructures such as drainages.
    Public Education could possibly help. People should become more aware of caring for the environment and understanding how their health and safety is intertwined with the wellbeing of the environment.
    Could initiating schemes where ‘waste’ could be deemed profitable can be undertaken? For example, could a semblance of a kind of deposit-refund scheme where a surcharge is placed on plastic bottles when purchased and a rebate when the used plastic is returned be workable in Liberia? Or what about introducing measures where waste could have some economic value: publicly-funded recycling plants or waste-to-energy plants? Big dreams, ehn?
    Or what about the EPA and other relevant authorities work on developing a kind of extended producer responsibility in Liberia where producers or distributors of certain kinds of products be responsible for the disposal of those wastes at the end of their product life (buyers return products to distributor/producer at the end of the product life for producer/distributor to dispose of it)?
    Could banning plastic bags solve some of the problems? I don’t know. Could placing a special environmental tax on plastic products to be paid by consumers who will decide to buy plastic products help? I don’t know.
    The enforcement capacity of relevant authorities, especially for building codes and environmental protection, must be enhanced. The reduced capacities of authorities to enforce building codes or enhance environmental protection is engendering the situation where people can flout building standards, dispose garbage anywhere or where poor and marginalized populations can settle and construct homes in unsafe areas.
    We could go on and on…….but again, flood disasters also present an opportunity for the ‘relevant authorities’ to score political points. Wait for the flood disaster to occur and then the lawmakers, politicians, individuals wishing to contest for legislative seats, and other public officials can come and donate some bags of rice and sheets of zincs to the victims whilst smiling in front of the cameras!

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