The attention of the Liberian government of President George Weah has been drawn to the Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
The Convention, adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and enforced in Liberia in November 2003, covers all 5 internationally recognized wetlands of Liberia, amongst them, the Mesurado Wetlands that includes Bali Island off Bushrod Island in Monrovia (6,760 hectares, 06°18’N 010°45’W) , the Kpatawee Wetlands (835 hectares, 07°07’N 009°38’W) in Suacoco, Bong County, the Gbedin Wetlands(25 hectares, 07°16’N 008°48’W) in Nimba County, (25 hectares, 07°16’N 008°48’W), the Marshall Wetlands (12,168 hectares, 0°08’N 010°22’W) and the Lake Piso Multiple-Use Protected Area (MUPP), which is about 97,159 ha (240.083 ac).
But recently President George Weah suddenly announced that he intends to use Bali Island as a spot for serious development, including skyscrapers, office buildings, shopping malls, banks and entertainment facilities. In pursuit of this plan, the Ministry of Public Works has requested the nation’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue an environmental certificate that would allow the project to proceed.
We are very happy that Public Works has first approached the EPA, because that is precisely the Agency that knows all about the nation’s priceless environmental spots that need the utmost protection, in order to ensure that Liberia’s environment is preserved for posterity (future generations).
The EPA is that organization which is charged with the responsibility to maintain a list of all spots in the country that MUST be protected for preservation, so that the Liberian environment is saved from harm brought about by climatic problems and even catastrophes, such as droughts and earthquakes.
Let us attempt to explain what wetlands are and their importance to all countries. According to Internet sources, wetlands are areas where water covers soil all or part of the time. Wetlands are important because they protect and improve water quality, provide fish and wildlife habitats, store floodwaters and maintain surface water flow during dry periods.
Wetlands occur where water meets land. They include mangroves, peatlands and marshes, rivers and lakes, deltas, floodplains and flooded forests, rice-fields, and even coral reefs. Wetlands exist in every country and in every climatic zone, from the Polar Regions to the tropics, and from high altitudes to dry regions.
The foregoing observations show how important wetlands are. They must be preserved, as we said earlier, to prevent serious environmental problems, which could sometimes turn out to be catastrophes. That is why we are depending on the Environmental Protection Agency to live up to its calling and give Public Works the most professional advice necessary; that is, to leave our wetlands alone, in order to maintain Liberia’s climatic equilibrium (evenness, balance, stability).
As the Liberia Center for Environmental Education and Research has suggested, Liberia has no shortage of land for any kind of development. There are many areas along the St. Paul River, including Clay Ashland, the Po River on the Bomi Highway, with access even to the great Atlantic Ocean and numerous other areas ripe for development.
Many of these areas have lost their inhabitants, who have left because nothing is happening there, and now dwell in Monrovia, contributing to the capital’s overcrowdedness. We pray that EPA will do what it has to do by giving its candid professional advice to Public Works, knowing full well that Liberia’s wetlands, including Bali Island, are off limits to any kind of encroachment that would endanger their existence.