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"Monrovia Clean-Up Day?" Who's Making The Call, and Where Are They Dumping the Garbage?

By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh


I love Monrovia. I grew up admiring that old and rugged city as a child. It is a city on the hill surrounded by lakes, swamps, rocks and the Atlantic Ocean. Monrovia is where I was born many years ago.

As the nation’s capital, Monrovia is the undisputed power among the 15 political sub-divisions or counties trusted with a centralized political structure enshrined in the Constitution, and envied by residents of the other counties.

“Christopolis,” as she was once referred to by the settlers in the dark and early days, was renamed Monrovia after an American president, James Monroe, and later became a multi-cultural metropolis known for its thriving nightlife, engaging personalities, and a heated sports rivalry often romanticized as a place to visit, live, and do business.

However, Monrovia, the seaside city in 2012 is an overcrowded death trap waiting to bury its inhabitants who descended on that city from the countryside, villages, and far-away places after the civil war looking for jobs and opportunities in a country with little or no opportunities for its people.

The photos of President Sirleaf with gloves on, and holding a shovel in both hands months ago working the garbage during “Monrovia Clean-Up Day” are enough reasons to believe the nation’s capital needs not only a presidential proclamation to effect a clean up campaign the first Saturday of every month (with government and private businesses closed from 6 p.m., to 10 a.m., excluding hospitals), but a facelift that will bring Monrovia up to par at least minimally with other major cities around the world.

With an estimated population of 1.5 million inhabitants sandwiched in Monrovia, (half of the population in the entire country), Monrovia resembled a polluted shantytown infested with crimes, crippling and fatal diseases, dilapidated and unpainted buildings, crumbling infrastructure, human and animal feces, no modern sewer system, piles of eye-catching garbage, and no incinerator or sanitary landfills to dispose of the garbage collected.

Francis Nyepon of Ducor Wastes writing for The Liberian Dialogue in 2007, echoed these sentiments about the sanitation problem this way: “Since its founding, Liberia has never had an incinerator or sanitary landfill. Rotten garbage and dangerous wastes contaminates, ground and surface water pollutes the environment; and causes severe public health risk, with negative impact on hygiene, dignity and labor.”

Morris Koffa of the African Environmental Watch, writing in The Liberian Dialogue in 2008 also echoed these sentiments: “The lack of sanitary landfills capable of receiving about 600 – 800 metric tons of garbage collected each day in Liberia; particularly in the city of Monrovia where half the country’s population resides is the underlining problem of the solid waste crisis.”

“The dumpsite located in the Fiamah Community, according to the EPA, has been decommissioned. Where is the garbage been dumped now? There are no incinerators to handle medical wastes from hospitals/clinics – the syringes, blood-filled bandages among others are randomly thrown in wetlands, major tributary and beaches, where most Liberians often gathered not knowing whether a syringe stepped on is contaminated,” Koffa noted.

Environmental activists Francis Nyepon and Morris Koffa are right indeed. Monrovia and all of Liberia lacked the landfills and incinerators needed to handle industrial and domestic wastes. The obvious lack of adequate public and private restrooms has led citizens to run to the beach, backyards and unfinished/vacant homes to dump feces that often will run into the sea, rivers and the nation’s drinking water.

While it is true that a major drive of this kind to clean the city of Monrovia is a good idea, however, Monrovia, the nation’s capital like other cities all across Liberia deserves to be self-governed, cleaned and maintained; with elected Mayors and City Councilmen and women at the helm overseeing such clean-up campaigns in their own cities.

So what’s next? Is President Sirleaf, as president of all of Liberia – not only Monrovia, ready to also go to Nimba, Sinoe, and the other counties to clean up those areas? Where did the president and her cleaning crew dump the garbage that was cleaned in Monrovia?

The idea that such a local task that should have been undertaken by elected officials of the City of Monrovia and the various cities is being controlled and micromanaged by a national political leader, the President of Liberia, is exactly what’s wrong with Liberia.

What is needed is not a short-term photo-op showing President Sirleaf wearing gloves and holding a shovel to clean the City of Monrovia, but a long-term commitment and a genuine national environmental policy that addresses the critical environmental crisis affecting modern day Liberia.




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