Our Assistant Editor C.Y. Kwanue’s story on how sand mining by the Chinese is undermining the bridge leading to the Roberts International Airport (RIA) should claim the immediate attention of us all, most especially the Liberian government.
If that bridge collapses for any reason, we would all be in deep trouble, for how shall we get to the RIA, the country’s leading airport, responsible for over 98 percent (%) of Liberia’s air travel?
Long ago, before the RIA Highway was constructed, everyone used the main thoroughfare out of Monrovia – the Careysburg-Kakata Highway – to get to what was then called Robertsfield. This is the same and only highway that leads to the nation’s vast central, western and southeastern interior.
Today, who would dare attempt passing through the Paynesville Red Light to get to the RIA to catch a flight, without being late? That route leads you through the eternally congested Red
Light to Firestone’s Division 15 Gate, past the Du Side Hospital, and through Harbel before hitting Firestone’s other gate leading to the airport.
This detour makes the distance not only longer, but far more congested—the Red Light traffic alone, then also the traffic leading to Kakata and up country.
This would mean a decisive step backward for the Liberian economy, for many airlines would deem it unworthy venturing into RIA to face losses from persistently late passengers.
It would be a step backward for an economy still striving to recover from Ebola, which caused several airlines to discontinue flights to Liberia. Only two weeks ago KLM, the Royal Dutch Airline, resumed flights to RIA after more than two decades. We understand that SWISSAIR, one of the world’s premiere airlines, is also contemplating resuming flights to RIA after over a decade of absence.
All of these are signs of much needed economic recovery which no one, not least among them the Liberian government, would want to reverse, especially with the coming elections, which will definitely attract so much international attention.
So the threat, due to something as totally unessential as sand mining, to the Junk River Bridge leading to RIA, raises alarm for all of us.
It is, therefore, a no-brainer (something one doesn’t even have to think about) that GOL would rush to do three things to save the Junk River Bridge: First, launch a serious and decisive investigation into the allegations that sand mining the Junk River is undermining the bridge leading to RIA.
Second, GOL, beginning with the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy (LME), would put an immediate halt to sand mining anywhere in that area; and third, LME, together with the Ministry of Public Works, would undertake an immediate examination of the bridge in its entirety to ensure that it has in no way been affected by sand mining or any other activity.
Some time ago this newspaper, Daily Observer, sounded a warning about sand mining at the newly constructed Caldwell Bridge in Montserrado County. We urge LME to revisit that bridge, too, and all other bridges around the country and stop unscrupulous, greedy and anti-development people from undermining the country’s already fragile and woefully inadequate infrastructure to enrich themselves, leaving the rest of us crippled, deprived and poor indeed.