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Time for Sirleaf and national legislature to fund and seriously focus on nation's sea erosion crisis

By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh         Beach erosion in Liberia


Coastal Liberian communities are in trouble.

Instead of those communities generating tourism funds for the local economy, they are fast going under water, courtesy of a decades-old sea erosion crisis often ignored by the national government.

As erosion from the Atlantic Ocean stares constantly, it is just a matter of time for some of those communities to completely disappear from this planet.

The sea erosion crisis did not happen on Sirleaf’s watch. Erosion from the Atlantic Ocean has been destroying homes for decades; yet, successive administrations have ignored the problem as if it will just go away.

Truth is, past Liberian presidents and legislature never budgeted or appropriated funds for the nation’s nagging sea erosion crisis, and never care to even put the issue on the national agenda for public debate. However, as Liberians watch helplessly, they are losing their homes in record numbers.

Even though the affected communities are still around and barely look the same, those that own homes in and around the neighborhoods are often traumatized after seeing their homes destroyed; and their loved ones homeless.

For example, the once vibrant counties like Sinoe, Maryland, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, and communities such as New Kru Town, Porpor Beach and West Point in Montserrado County are seriously affected by beach or sea erosion problem.

Once upon a time, it took a person miles and miles to walk from the heart of New Kru Town (“Turn-Around”) to Porpor Beach. Now the ocean is scarily in one’s face like a 3-D movie.

The Borough of New Kru Town and neighboring Porpor Beach, and West Point that once provided hope and the area’s vast pristine beaches and beachfront communities just cannot escape the daily natural assaults from the Atlantic Ocean.

The continuing neglect and lack of commitment from the national government to address the area’s erosion crisis is painfully troublesome, and has made those communities a dangerous place to live and engage in economic development.

Just recently, 2000 residents in the Porpor Beach area near New Kru Town were left homeless, as a result of sea erosion.

As usual, such natural disaster does not generate attention or rapid response from the Liberian government until something tragic happens – or until homes are destroyed and human beings are rendered homeless, or dead.

And when that happens, everybody begin to wonder, “why did it happen, and why the Liberian government failed to do something about the erosion problem in the first place”?

Even though over 180 homes went under water during the recent (August) erosion that reportedly left 2,000 people homeless, all the Sirleaf administration could do was dispatch deputy minister/internal affairs Ranny Jackson to the scene to provide the government’s usual band aid temporary solution, and pie in the sky promise of better things to come.

According to reports, Jackson, who supposedly heads the government’s disaster relief team promised that t”he Liberian government is putting together packages of assistance,” and is also “considering putting into place a response to the people’s plight.” Jackson reportedly added that government is considering the “possible relocation of those affected to other parts of Monrovia.”

Did Mr. Jackson fulfill his promise of relocating those people yet? Or did he only uttered those words for the cameras?

At the end of the day, however, Jackson reportedly donated “50 bags of rice, five cartons of oil, three bales of used clothing, buckets, slippers and soaps, among others.”

Now that the Liberian government has given these people rice and soaps to ease their pains, where are they supposed to spend the night and cook their meals? With relatives and friends? Why did the government not provide temporary housing for them?

Where are the government-subsidized homes and housing allowance for such natural disaster? If there’s ever a reason to appropriate funds to build low-income homes for poor and needy Liberians, this is the time.

The government’s knee-jerk rhetorical reaction – that it is “considering putting into place a response to the people’s plight” is not only a short-term feel-good solution to the nation’s nagging erosion crisis, it is a failed and meaningless policy that relies heavily on delivering bags of rice and soaps to temporarily tranquilize the pain and suffering of the poor, homeless and traumatized victims of that disaster.

After hearing that Jackson delivered rice to the victims, I thought it was elections season once again, since Liberian politicians and office seekers are known to deliver bags of rice to potential voters to win their support.

Since this is not the first time residents of New Kru Town, Porpor Beach, Buchanan, West Point and other parts of coastal Liberia ever experienced natural disasters, what happens the next time when there is yet another sea erosion; especially during the bad weather season i.e., the endless rainy, flooding and hurricane seasons?

Will Ranny Jackson travel to those areas to once again deliver rice and give another futuristic pie in the sky message of what the Sirleaf administration’s going to do for the next erosion victims?

As it is now, there is not even any mention of a national budget for erosion control, environmental engineering projects, beach restoration and beach cleaning, or a national policy that completely discourages and bans sand mining – the age-old practice often used by Liberians to build homes and other projects.

The Liberian nation needs a focused erosion control, environmental engineering, beach restoration and beach cleaning (environment) policy.

Doing nothing is not a policy, but neglect and lack of leadership.

The Sirleaf administration’s lack of a sea erosion policy will only continue to erase or plunge part of Liberia deep down into the Atlantic Ocean.





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