Saving Monrovians from Floods

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Quite recently we published an editorial urging the Ministries of Public Works and Health and Social Welfare and the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC) to develop a joint task force to deal with the problems of floods and drainages in Monrovia and elsewhere in the country.

We continue to be of the strong opinion that these "three horses of Trioka" have both the capacity and mandate to do something decisive to fix this perennial problem, which affects tens of thousands of city dwellers every Rainy Season.  Public Works has the yellow machines to do the digging, clearing and the engineers to determine how the rain water settles in one place, such as across the road from the Old Road intersection near the President's home on Tubman Boulevard, and elsewhere.

In the case of the 20-24th Streets in Sinkor, especially the area near the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, there are thousands of people living in the marshland (swamp)  immediately behind the hospital, just next to the Atlantic Ocean.

The hospital authorities have repeatedly advised these people to move from the area, first because the land belongs to JFK and second because these people do not have the resources to transform that marshy area into firm ground on which to build solid houses.

The Ministry of Public Works has known about this problem for years, ever since the 1960s when the JFK was being built.  But that Ministry seems to have had a perennial problem creating and enforcing zoning laws. Public Works is, therefore, chiefly responsible for the building chaos in Monrovia, Paynesville and other suburbs, where people have for decades built anywhere the please, and planted any kind of structure, whether zinc or cardboard shack or mud house right next to someone's US$150,000 concrete residence.  And nobody cares.

Such is the situation in the marshland in the rear of the JFK, where this Ministry, Public Works, seems powerless to do anything about. Then when the trouble comes, as it predictably does every Rainy Season, the people scream at the government for doing nothing to help them.  And yet, it is, by their own admission, which was relayed to our reporter Joachim Sendolo two days ago, largely their fault because they   remove even manholes belonging to the Water and Sewer Corporation, to plant their structures thereon.  Reporter Sendolo, in interviews conducted Monday morning with flood victims, quoted many as
confessing that their people remove manhole drainage tops to sell to scrap dealers, then plant their structures on the manhole space.

This newspaper has always, in desperation, asked, What kind of people are we, who behave as though we do not want development?  It is not only unpatriotic slum dwellers that steal the aluminum from light poles to sell to scrap dealers in Monrovia and as far as Ganta; it is also people who build their shacks in the path of drainages and on precious wetlands who behave as though they care less about development or order or zoning regulations that are designed to bring some character and sanity to city development.

As for Water and Sewer, Mr. Allen, the Managing Director, too, has a team of engineers who can scout Monrovia, especially the water-logged areas, and study the arteries of the earth to determine where water is likely to settle or pass when it rains. Does LWSC have a hydrological engineer?  If not, it is about time you hire one, or scout the schools and find talented young people to go study hydrological engineering.

We reiterate our plea to all these technical GOL Ministries and Agencies to awake, come to grips with the fact that they have over the war years lost to safety and greener pastures most or all of the people they had trained.  Now these Ministries and Agencies are called to scout the schools and colleges for talent to train in civil, water and related or relevant engineering fields.

Meanwhile, as the Rainy Season is upon us, what, in this eleventh hour, can Public Works and Water and Sewer do to alleviate the pain and suffering of slum dwellers and others who, by their own intransigence, have put themselves in harm's way to suffer the wrath of the water?

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