Unauthorized destruction of the wetlands: A heinous environmental threat that must stop

By Alloycious David

There are media reports of severe flooding in several communities in Monrovia and its environs. Outlets are reporting that water has entered the homes of communities in Paynesville and Monrovia following a heavy downpour.

The situation according to reports has resulted in the displacement of hundreds of residents, some of whom are seeking refuge with family members and associates. Many household items including mattresses, electronics and cooking utensils have also been ruined due to flood water.

 Why is there flooding?

Reports of flooding, especially during rainy season (May – October), are not new as flooding itself is no longer a strange occurrence. It has become a regular occurrence, accepted as normal by some residents.

During this period, affected communities usually plead for assistance from government and humanitarians without the slightest idea that they have caused the situation. Some residents have altered the environment so much that it is in return having impacts on them. The environment will repeatedly impact us in a negative way because “nature doesn’t forgive” like environmentalist, Dr. Nathaniel Blama is fond of saying. 

Most flooding around our cities is human induced. Many people continue to encroach on wetlands and mangrove forest, which are supposed to absorb rain water.

Mangrove forests make up one of the most productive and biologically diverse ecosystems on planet. Mangrove forest grow in a variety of depths of salt water, their roots sticking up out of the mud with fish, crustaceans and a host of other species living between tree trunks.

Mangrove forests nurture our estuaries and fuel our nature-based economies. Mangroves are important to the ecosystem too. Their dense roots help bind and build soils. Their above-ground roots slow-down water flows and encourages sediment deposits that reduce coastal erosion.

Wetlands are a critical part of our natural environment. They protect our shores from wave action, reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality. They provide habitat for animals and plants and many contain a wide diversity of life, supporting plants and animals that are found nowhere else.

The Environmental Protection and Management Law (EPML) of Liberia establishes a legal framework for the sustainable development, management and protection of the environment by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in partnership with regulatory Ministries and organizations and in a close and responsive relationship with the people of Liberia; Section 75 (2) provides that no person shall in relation to wetland, use, erect, construct, place, alter, extend, remove or demolish course in, on, under or over the bed” or to direct or block a wetland from its natural and normal course.

However, the EPML is being breached daily by residents erecting homes in wetlands and mangrove swamps near Maltida Estate, SKD Boulevard, Kesselley Boulevard and Battery Factory communities. The unauthorized backfilling of wetlands for construction and other purposes and the illegal construction of structures on waterways are greatly contributing to flooding in the country. Many people undertaking projects on wetlands have refused to seek the advice of the EPA, the Government of Liberia agency responsible to sustainably manage the environment and natural resources.

Recently, there has been uncontrollable destruction of wetlands and waterways across Monrovia and Paynesville. Some individuals have under the cover of darkness used huge trucks to dump foreign materials, especially dirt in the wetlands. Some unscrupulous individuals are very busy backfilling the swamps and waterways along the Mount Barclay corridor while another group are seriously backfilling the Marshall wetland overnight. Significant portions of the wetlands along the road connecting Fendall and Redlight have been dried up for construction purposes. This uncontrollable drying of wetlands is not only causing flooding, but has destroyed the ecosystem of aquatic species. These repeated actions have compromised the ecological integrity of the wetlands.

Until we halt the encroachment on wetlands and destruction of our mangrove swamps, we will continually experience flooding across our cities. We need to seek the guidance of technicians from the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia (EPA) when it becomes necessary to develop wetlands. The EPA has the requisite expertise needed in the development of wetlands. It is authorized by Section 75 of the EPML to manage the environment and the natural resources in a sustainable way.

The author is a journalist of over ten years and a student of the Environmental Science and Climate Change Program at the University of Liberia Graduate School and Professional Study. He can be reached on cell number 0770967350/ email: alloyciousdavid@yahoo.com

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