Today, June 5th, the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia, the entity mandated by law to protect the human health and well-being of our nation will be celebrating World Environment Day (WED).
WED for short, is a United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) activity that is celebrated every year on June 5 to raise global awareness to take positive action
to protect nature and the planet earth.”
The global theme for this year is: “Sustainable consumption and production. The slogan for the theme is”Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.” For the EPA. The domestic theme for this year’s celebration is “Protect the Environment, enjoy nature.”
Seriously, global environmental challenges continue to plague mankind, especially in developing countries. From the impact of climate change on the agriculture,
forestry and the health sectors, to sea erosion and displacement of groups of mainly poor people, especially those living along coastal belts.
These attending issues can be seriously overwhelming for a country whose development agenda is characterized by excessive budgetary shortfalls.
Subsequently, in the design and allocation of limited resources to ministries and
agencies, institutions such as the Liberian EPA is left with nothing short of gathering the leftovers from the tables of “important ministries” such as Health, Education, Agriculture etc. But seriously again, it doesn’t seem, but rather it is grimacing to place the EPA in the category of an orphaned or abandoned child during these national exercises. I need not tell you about the role of the EPA during the Ebola crisis.
Importantly, one can argue that the three named ministries are cardinal to the
existence of the nation such that without a better education, not enough food to feed itself and poor health care, the nation could sink into the dungeon of poverty.
This analysis from a one-sided perspective can be absolutely right. However,
the wrong in it can be manifested by asking the tricky question: “The environment and the economy, which comes first?”
There may likely be no straight answer to this reverberating and rhetorical question simply because an answer to one could lead to the answer of the other. The difficulty in answering yes or no has given rise to the concept of sustainable development- the process of creating a balance of power between the environment and the economy, or economicdevelopment and transformation.
On our side of the world, the theme of WED looks a bit blurry, but for now one can say it is partly unachievable. How can we as a nation protect the environment? How can we enjoy nature? Conspiracy theorists will argue that for a country like Liberia, protecting the environment is light years away. The rationale in their spirits is that a country that relies primarily on the exploitation of natural resources as a basis for revenue generation is outside the box of sustainable development.
How can we protect the environment in light of unsustainable and illicit logging in
the South East, wide spread shifting cultivation, continuous hunting of bush meat in the Gola Forest, no cap and trade on the rate of pollution from emission of fossil
fuel, and lack of an effective early warning system for farmers and other users of weather information and coastal defense mechanism to mitigate the rate of sea erosion in Robertsports, Buchanan, Hotel Africa and other coastal belts?
Protecting the environment means improving the human and institutional capacity of the Liberian EPA. As it stands, there is a need for serious reform within the EPA to reflect professionalism in tackling environmental issues in the country.
Besides been in a consistent budgetary dilemma, the EPA is yet to find a place in the hearts and minds of the Cabinet to the extent that when the nation was underseige by the deadly Ebola Virus Disease, the EPA was nowhere to be found, or may I say the EPA was no part of the entire process including the handling, management and disposal of hazardous wastes and the burial of victims.
So then, how can we enjoy nature when we have no passion or desire of protecting our environment in which we live? We are all called to be custodians and stewards of the environment and our efforts should be concentrated at bringing man into harmony with nature.
One way of doing so is to show love to the natural habitats that gave us the shade to rest, clean air to breath and the soil for food.
Hope this time around, the celebration of World Environment Day will share new light on how our policymakers view the environment.
P. Emmanuel Munyeneh, MIDP, MEP Environment and Development Specialist National Focal Person, Inter-Governmental Panel on Biodiversity and Eco-system Services (IPBES)
US: +1 240-467-7055