LIBERIA: EPA To Raze Illegal Structures At Kpatawee Waterfall

The Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia (EPA) has disclosed plans to raze structures erected around the Kpatawee Wetlands in Bong County, without it’s authorization.

Kpatawee is one of Liberia’s five wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, which serves as a major water reservoir uniquely characterize with a water fall.

It also serves as a habitat for diverse animal and plant species, as well as home for endangered three-cusped Pangolin and Water Chevrotain.

A study conducted by environmental scientists and technicians establishes that people are encroaching on the waterfall to an extend that the wetland may soon lost its conservation value and international importance.

Against this backdrop, EPA Executive Director, Prof. Wilson K. Tarpeh said that all structures erected in the wetlands without authorization from the EPA will be demolished.

The EPA is the Government of Liberia focal entity for the management of the environment and natural resources.

Speaking at the 2022 World Wetlands Day Celebration on February 2, 2022 in Kpatawee, Prof. Tarpeh explained that it is important that Liberians conserve and use wetlands wisely, because doing so will signify Liberia’s obligatory fulfillment under the Ramsar Convention.

Prof. Tarpeh disclosed that last year, the EPA undertook an assessment mission to determine current status of Kpatawee predicated upon numerous complaints and reports highlighting the increasing wave of pit sawing and other illegal and unregulated activities.

“Key finding of the report indicated that Kpatawee Waterfall continue to be degraded leading to gradual decline of its ecological integrity, especially its watershed importance that had given rise to this waterfall,” he said.

Prof. Tarpeh indicated that cognizant of EPA’s statutory mandate to protect this ecosystem, the Agency signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Jalk Enterprise to assist in protecting the Kpatawee Waterfall through series of activities such as awareness raising, helping to maintain the forest canopy, promoting ecotourism and many others.

“Today, little calm has returned to this waterfall, but we need to do more.  I look forward to receive Kpatawee Waterfall Management Plan which will take into consideration agreeable activities that Jalk and the inhabitants will undertake in protecting the waterfall, conserving biodiversity, addressing the livelihood of the local inhabitants and above all promoting the Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development,” Tarpeh added.

For his part, Levi Z. Piah, Focal Point of the Ramsar Convention at the EPA pleaded for support for the official gazzettment of the Kpatawee Waterfall.

Delivering the keynote address, Deputy Head of Mission at Sweden Embassy, Johan Romare said protecting wetlands, and using them sensibly, are part of critical ways Liberia can achieve sustainable development.

He indicated that wetlands support Liberia and Liberians, in so many different ways, including keeping our landscape in better shape, supporting agriculture development, tourism, fisheries, our forests; and very crucial is that these wetlands serve as important hotspots for biodiversity, and serve as carbon sink.

“This means that properly maintaining our wetlands is crucial in maintain our biodiversity and addressing the climate change challenge that we are currently experiencing,” Romare said.

He further explained that plastics pollution greatly affects wetlands and the environment in general and said “It remains a fact, that most of the plastics that we use, end up in the ocean, our beaches, and other land areas.”

“As we throw bottles, plastic bags, and empty water sachets away, they eventually end up in the ocean, wetlands and eventually in our food chain, creating an environmental and health challenge,” the Sweden envoy said.

“Lets therefore use this years celebration of World Wetlands Day to reflect on concrete measures that can be taken to address this issue of plastics pollution,” Romare said.

He reminded the gathering that in March 2019 Sweden and the Liberian Government, working with Conservation International (CI) organized and hosted the first ever ‘Blue Ocean Conference’ in the West Africa region.

“Several commitments were made at the conclusion of that conference. One of them was:

We commit to a ban on single-use plastics by 2022 and commits to recovering and responsibly managing all plastic packaging by 2030 by partnering with stakeholders at relevant governance levels to address plastics production, marketing, and use,” Romare indicated 

As the EPA was the lead Government agency responsible for these commitments, perhaps it is about time that we think about moving some of these commitments forward, particularly on marine plastics pollution. Sweden is ready to support both the Government and private sector actors in this regard. This can be achieved by working in broad and more collaborative ways that incorporate key actors from all sectors.

In the coming years, Sweden will be increasing engagement in the areas of environment and climate change, natural resources and biodiversity, including mangrove, forests, and livelihood of coastal and forest communities.

This is important for finding a balance between protection of ecosystem services on one hand and improving the livelihoods of communities that depend on it. In this increased engagement we are looking forward to collaborating with all of you represented here today.

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