26 April 2013

Liberia: Coastal Residents Evicted As Anti-Erosion Project in Grand Bassa Lacks Funding

Coastal residents are being evicted with no compensation to make way for a project to stop catastrophic sea erosion.

"While the sea is treating our life the government is also worrying us by breaking home down with no proper relocation and compensation," said Prince Jlantee, chairman of Fanti Town in Buchanan.

"The government had already started breaking houses down. They have broken over 25 houses."

In the past several months, erosion has destroyed more than 37 structures, while the ocean has been moving one to two meters inland during the raining season.

The United Nations Development Programme and Government of Liberia have launched a US$3.3 million project to combat coastal erosion in Grand Bassa, Montserrado and Grand Cape Mount counties, with Grand Bassa receiving the lion's share of the funding.

"Out of the US$3.3 million, government has decided to take $2 million for the threat the erosion may cause the Port of Buchanan," said Isaac Duwah, County director and focal person for the Grand Bassa Coastal Project.

Evicted Fanti Town resident Marpu Jackson said she will continue to live under a tent by the ocean because, having received no compensation for loss of her home, she has nowhere to go.

"Living under this tent I lost my husband this few days from the cold," Jackson said. "Where do I have to go? All my life I have been living here.

"The government has given us a swamp land but how do they expect us to build our new homes?"

Jlantee pleaded with government to consider relocating and compensating residents along the sea.

"Another problem is taking us from around the sea where we find our daily bread," Jlantee said. "It is fishing we survive on to bring income to our family."

County Director and focal person for Grand Bassa Coastal Project Isaac Duah acknowledged there is no fund allocated in the project for the relocation of residents along the sea coast.

"The project is designed in such a way that there is no funding available to those people for relocation," Duwah said.

The project is to last for four years but two years have passed without any significant gains, Duwah said.

"One of the delays in the project is the relocating of the people without compensation is a challenge for us," he said.

Duwah said that the project started as the result of climate change that is affecting the coast of Liberia. Sand mining has added to the problem, and although daytime enforcement has reduced the mining by people using trucks, others still come by night to mine sand by hand with sacks, Duwah said.

Buchanan resident Albert Richards said he had watched dozens of houses taken by the sea since he arrived 25 years ago. Like other residents of Atlantic Street near the coast, Richards worries the ocean will end up taking his home, too. Delays in the UNDP project add to his concern.

"The raining season is nearing and they have not started the project," Richards said. "We cannot see any action. All we see are trucks bringing crushed rocks. No actual work has started.

"We want the government to talk to the UNDP to speed up with the work."

The project is to take the form of a rock breakwater in a "T" shape, running 100 meters into the sea. However, the plan to stop erosion actually called for three such structures, Duwah said.

"Given the financial implication here the government has decided construct one out of three," Duwah said, adding that an assessment determined US$18.5 million is required to sold Grand Bassa's erosion problem.

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