• The EPA warns the public
EPA Press Conference

Leila B. Gbati writes

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has informed the public about the increasing wave of destruction of wetlands, especially in Monrovia and its environs.

The EPA disclosed that actions on the part of Liberians continue to undermine the integrity of the fragile ecosystem of importance.

The announcement was made by the Executive Director of the EPA, Professor Wilson K. Tarpeh, on Tuesday, August 9, 2022, at a press conference held at the Office of the EPA in Sinkor.

Speaking to the press on the destruction of wetlands across the country, Prof. Tarpeh indicated that Liberia is a contracting party to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the EPA is the government arm charged with the responsibility to protect and manage the environment and to ensure that Liberia honors her international obligations in protecting and managing the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

According to him, Liberia is endowed with six (6) major wetlands of international importance, all of which play an important role in the ecosystem.

He emphasized that wetlands serve as habitat for plants such as mangroves, water lilies, algae, and animal species (fishes, turtles, birds, snakes, crocodiles, and as the sponge of the environment and absorption capacity.

The EPA Executive Director also told the media at the press conference that wetlands serve as a habitat for fishes to lay their eggs and nutrients from the environment as well as the deposit of soil nutrients are found in the wetlands for soil fertility.

He maintained that wetlands serve as the kidney of the environment in helping to filter unwanted materials and as the liver of the environment in helping to detoxify materials within the environment. Wetlands serve as a reservoir for storing water and as a major shore stabilizer to prevent flooding.

Speaking further, Prof. Tarpeh highlighted that given the importance of the unique ecosystem that Liberians are blessed with, wetlands are under severe threat mainly from human activities such as cutting of the mangrove forests, illegal human settlement, indiscriminate dumping of waste, the usage of dynamite to kill fishes, and many other harmful practices.

“For the last several years, the EPA has embarked on several actions to protect our wetlands. Some of these actions are: developing a National Wetlands Policy; jingles were developed and aired for radio stations to increase awareness about the importance of protecting and managing wetlands in a sustainable manner; erected billboards in the hot spots in Monrovia, for example, along the SKD Boulevard in Paynesville, demolished illegal structures along the SKD Boulevard, Paynesville, and other areas, and issued Stop Orders to inhabitants wanting to construct in the wetlands. “Presently, we have our technicians in Monrovia and its environs carrying on awareness about the importance of protecting the wetlands and also collecting flood data despite our numerous interventions. Our people continue to destroy our wetlands, especially in Monrovia and its environs,” he said.

Professor Tarpeh argues that the actions of Liberians destroying the wetlands are having severe consequences on the environment, including the pollution of wells, giving rise to vector-borne diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever, cholera, etc.

He noted that communities including Johnsonville, Gardnesville, Tweh Farm, Dwazon, Joe Bloh Town along the Robertsfield Highway, and many others are being flooded as they witnessed last month during the 8 days of uninterrupted rainfall in Monrovia and its environs. As such, snakes and crocodiles are entering some dwelling places, threatening the lives of the people.

“Let me use this medium to strongly advise our people to stop destroying the wetlands. We want to again advise our local administrators to help us ensure that no one is giving squatters’ rights within the wetlands that house the mangrove forests. The mangroves are there to prevent our homes from being flooded. Do not build dwellings in the swamp and do not dump waste in the wetlands. “We advise our people to stop all those harmful practices that continue to degrade our wetlands, thereby compromising their health and livelihood,” he asserts.

He also assured the public that the EPA will continue to halt all actions that are destroying wetlands, calling on the media and Liberians as well to report any action in their community that is destroying wetlands, especially those that are involved with cutting the mangroves and laterite backfilling.

According to the professor, township commissioners and local government officials handle the majority of wetlands sales across the country.

He emphasized that the interesting thing about it is that the compromise and destruction of wetlands is not done by the people down the line but by individuals who know better and have the financial strength to fill and dry the swamp.

“We tell our people, do not buy wetland or swap property from anyone, such belong to the government,” he said.

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