When Will Liberia Awake to the Alarming Reality of Sea Erosion?

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We Liberians have received many, many warnings, but have consistently, stubbornly and stupidly ignored them all.

The first serious one was Point Four, Bushrod Island, where Colonel John West, a United States military officer who served here, near the close of World War II, fell in love with Liberia, settled there, started his ice cream and other businesses and never left.  In the early 1960s Point Four began to experience threats from the Atlantic Ocean but no one, certainly not the Liberian government, took it seriously. Gradually, Point Four slowly began to experience the gradual assault of the Atlantic.

Next door was New Kru Town and its most prominent institution, the D. Twe High School, named for Liberia’s second most prominent Kru man, Didwo Twe, the first of his ethnic group to enter the House of Representatives.  Everyone knows that indeed the most prominent man of that ethnicity was Dr. John Nagbe Togba, Tubman’s first Director General of the National Public Health Service, who in 1948 was one of the two black men to sign the Charter of the World Health Organization and in 1954 became the first black person to be elected President of the World Health Assembly.

But this Editorial is not about eminent Kru men, but about the assault of the Atlantic Ocean on Liberia, including its capital, Monrovia.

The Atlantic’s next target was the port city of Buchanan which is, next to Monrovia, the nation’s second county capital city.  Since the early 1970s Buchanan has been threatened by the onslaught of the Atlantic, but successive administrations have ignored this threat; and now, huge chunks of this beautiful, picturesque city are fast being swept away, and till this day, no one seems to care.  Again, successive administrations, including the latest, that of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, haven’t given a fig about it.

We ask once again a question that this newspaper has perennially asked—what kind of people are we?  When will we ever get an administration that has a holistic view of development and carve a proactive approach to the things that really matter in this country?

Next to Buchanan and New Kru Town came Hotel Africa and the Unity Conference Center, where tens of millions of dollars were invested to host, in July 1975 the Summit Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity (OAU-now African Union-AU).

Poor Liberia’s immediate past administration, that of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who for the past 12 years, as Liberia’s 24th President, attended at least once a year, sometimes more, every meeting of the African Union (former Organization of African Unity).  Ellen forgot—or paid benign neglect to that Organization’s meeting in Monrovia in 1979, when President William R. Tolbert was elected OAU Chairman, and all the  Heads of State and Government were hosted at the Unity Conference Center.  So why did Ellen not fix the Conference Center, where the Summit was held, its  cabanas and Hotel Africa, that housed all the Heads of State and Government and their delegations?  All of these were built when she was Liberia’s Finance Minister.

So what has now happened to them all?  The same thing that happened to New Kru Town, to D. Twe High School and to Buchanan, the Grand Bassa capital.

And now this—the mansions and other buildings that once adorned (beautified) the beachfront behind Old Congo Town Road, where the Chinese Embassy and other mansions are located—yes, many of them are now seriously at risk—but more so, so many of them are GONE!  Gone where?  You guessed it—swallowed up or washed away by the powerful, relentless waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

This sad, shocking phenomenon (occurrence) was brought to light in yesterday’s Daily Observer by our Special Correspondent Lindhiwe Kumalo after she took a stroll along the Atlantic beach in Congo Town last week. She took many photos on her cell phone, some of which were published along with her story in yesterday’s newspaper.

In that story, we asked where are the Environmental Protection Agency and the Ministries of Lands, Mines and Energy and Public Works.  We could also have asked where is the whole government of Liberia?

Indeed, we believe and know that this is a very serious crisis that demands the attention of the entire government.  Lest we forget, Ms. Khumalo’s article also forewarned that the powerful Atlantic, if we permit it, is coming for other buildings within its reach—not only those along the beachfront, but beyond.   Soon, if the waves are not stopped, they could cross Tubman Boulevard and reach even the new ministerial complex, which is now being completed!

Is that enough a scare to force the Liberian government into action?

We hope and pray so.  But first, the government must save D. Twe High, Hotel Africa, the Unity Conference Center and Buchanan.

The George Manneh Weah government must NOT repeat the sorrowful neglect of the previous administrations, especially the most recent one.

Authors

3 COMMENTS

  1. God knows that Daily Observer has been single-handedly resilient on the existential issue of Sea Erosion in a country where evidence of its devastating impacts are in plain sight. Perhaps, the unspoken excuse is lack of money for mitigating undertakings. Should that be true, why not escalate public awareness though palava hut discussions, seminars, and so on? Often, when enough light is shone on an overwhelming problem; and written proposals to solve it are generated, donor organizations provide wherewithal to meet the challenge. What, then, was the purpose of creating an autonomous agency with the pompous name Environment Protection Agency (EPA), if it was going to be a white elephant?

  2. Dear Sir/Madam: Which way Daily Observer? Just the other day you were making an argument for the construction of the Ministerial Complex at the site that is now called the “Buzzi Quarter” and today you are talking about sea erosion? I do not know which way. At that time I told you about the danger of rising sea level and how it would affect these infrastructures; howbeit, sea erosion is a serious issue that ought to be addressed by each and every Liberian, not only Government. Take for example, that famous William R.Tolbert, Jr. High school that was constructed in the mid 1970s, by the late President W.R.Tolbert,Jr. and named in his honor, but changed to D. Twe High Sch. by the Late Samuel K.Doe after the 1980 coup. That institution has produced prominent people in society today, who are working in the public and private sectors; the school is now threatened by the Atlantic Ocean, what are they doing about it? Nothing! They are waiting for Government.
    Prominent citizens of the Kru tribe, who is believed owned the settlement and a good number reside there, what are they doing about that school that had and continued to educate their children?Nothing! They are waiting for the International Community and NGOs to do the trick of pushing the sea backward for them. There is a Liberian adage: “When someone is washing your back, you should be washing your stomach” .Let all Liberians join hands together to tackle this rising sea level and tackle climate change, and not to rely on government entirely.
    Thanks.

  3. We have to invest in seawall—can build a seawall boulevard from 20th Street behind JFK all the way to Congo Town back road. This will serve two purpose—protect a core part of Monrovia and alleviate the traffic congestion on Tubman Boulevard i.e. Vamoma, Old Road and going into the new Government Complex in Congo Town.

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