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Flood ‘Prone Zone’ Areas Under Threat … EPA Raises Alarm

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MONROVIA: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revealed that the Mesurado Wetlands mangrove forest is disappearing considerably faster than anticipated.

The Mesurado wetland is situated in Montserrado County in the heart of Monrovia with a huge connectivity of water resources and a rich diversity of plants and animals’ species.

The total area covered by the Mesurado wetland is approximately 6,760 hectares. The site harbors three of the six mangrove species found in Liberia, a statement, issued by EPA Executive Director Wilson Tarpeh said.

In addition to the huge species richness of the area, Wetlands also serves as a habitats and breeding grounds for marine species and provide a number of important ecosystem services and benefits that contribute to poverty alleviation and food security, including food and raw material provision, opportunities for recreation and tourism, and moderation of extreme climate events.

The Mesurado wetland also serves as a crucial component of the blue forest ecosystem, a powerful form of erosion control, and with the existence of mangrove trees.

EPA, the statement added, sixteen (16) day robust wetland mapping assessment in August 2022.

Professor Tarpeh: “We like to use this medium to reemphasize that the Mesurado wetlands is disappearing considerably faster due to human activities.”

The assessment conducted was intended to monitor the state of the mangrove depletion and how the EPA would collaborate with communities’ leaders on the protection of the mangrove wetland ecosystem.”
Against this, we commissioned a full team of environmental technicians from the Department of Compliance and Enforcement, GIS, Conservation, Intersectoral, the RAMSAR focal Point and Inspectorate to map out reported wetlands degradation, using drone imagery on all degraded mangroves and wetlands on the Mesurado Wetlands areas,” EPA added.

Sixteen (16) communities on the fringes of the Mesurado Wetlands were targeted for the assessment.

The key objectives of the assessment were to: Develop a map of Mesurado wetlands showing the meets and bounds of the Ramsar Site; Produce a report from spatial land use and land cover change analysis to monitor the extent and rate of mangrove degradation; Improve collaboration between communities and the EPA on the protection and management of wetlands and gather on-the-ground data on the socio-economic drivers of wetland degradation which the team successfully achieved.

The EPA Boss narrated that the Mesurado wetlands is one of the five (5) Ramsar Sites established in Liberia and added to the Ramsar management network in 2006.

The Ramsar is a Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as waterfowl habitat.

It is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of Wetlands. It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands. It is named after the City of Ramsar in Iran, where the convention was signed in 1971.

In Liberia, the wetlands of international Importance are: Marshall Wetlands in Margibi County, Mesurado Wetlands in Montserrado County, Gbedin Wetlands in Nimba County, Lake Piso Wetlands in Grand Cape Mount County and Kpatawee Wetlands in Bong County.

The Mesurado Wetlands occupied an area of 6,760 hectares and is located between 06°18’N and 010°45’W in the capital city Monrovia, Montserrado County (the largest administrative region of the country with 1.5 million people.

There are about thirty-six (36) clans with a host of communities around the Mesurado wetlands.

The wetlands assessment was conducted based on the following activities: A pre-planning meeting was held to decide on the scope of the assessment;
A community engagement meeting held to inform community dwellers about the assessment and to raise awareness on the alarming rate of the wetlands degradation- its consequence and impact on the environment;

Ground truthing to collect aerial photographs (drone surveillance) and handheld GPS coordinates of degraded portions of the wetlands; The use of satellite imagery (Landsat 8 OLI/TIS and Landsat5 TM for supervised classification of the land cover

The findings from the assessment shows that affected communities along the wetland are not actively involved with the management and protection process; Community leaders and dwellers are not fully informed about national wetland policies and regulations; Township Commissioners are heavily selling the wetlands and giving it as squatter-right; The communities do not know the Mesurado wetlands as a Ramsar site due to limited/rare awareness.

The EPA is currently boosting awareness strategy. Evidence to this is the signing to contracts with 10 rural radio stations and additional 3 radio stations in Montserrado to help carryout awareness (airing environmental jingles and hosting environmental talk shows) as means for helping to adequately inform citizens on environmental issues.

The areas which are experiencing mangrove cover loss from 2008-2022 as well as areas with most degradation include New Matadi, Fanti Town, Topo village, Chocolate city, Old Road, Jacob Town etc. “which put these communities in a flood prone zone,” according to EPA.

There is a call for immediate action. An action we can take to stop cutting the mangroves; stop building in or backfilling the wetlands etc., but rather get involved with helping to protect the wetlands and report any form of destruction of the wetlands in your communities.

Professor Tarpeh however, assured the public that the EPA remains robust in accelerating its monitoring activity to ensure that our wetlands are protected and use wisely.

Tarpeh: “We urge the public to report any misuse of our wetlands especially as it relates to waste dumping, cutting of the mangroves, dumping of laterites to fill the wetlands for human settlement, etc.”

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