28 August 2017

Liberia: Sierra Leone Mudslide 'A Tragedy Mankind Called Upon Itself', Says LTA Chair

Photo: AMAMedia/Al Jazeera
August 14 mudslide killed hundreds and left thousands homeless.

The chairperson of the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) has said that Liberia should brace itself for an environmental disaster like what happened in neighboring Sierra Leone where over 400 people lost their lives after a mudslide, if Liberians do not stop abusing the environment. Serving as the commencement speaker at the 18th Convocation Exercises of the Stella Maris Polytechnic over the weekend, Angelique Weeks said West Africa is vulnerable to extreme weather and as such countries of the region should employ best practices that would limit the impact of climate change. On Friday, August 26, the LTA chairperson admonished Liberians about the dire consequences of neglecting the environment and noted that the calamity that struck Sierra Leone on August 14, when Sugar Loaf, the conical mountain overlooking the capital, Freetown, collapsed in a mudslide that swept away buildings and killed over 400 people. She said it was shocking but not entirely surprising, and putting it more bluntly, said: "This is a tragedy that mankind called upon itself."

"We have to stop the way we behave in this country: the way we treat our society, our communities and our environment. We most times fail to take note of the impact our everyday actions have on our environment. We throw plastic bags all over the place, we dump garbage everywhere; build on waterways and on drainages. With these actions, we are putting our lives at risk. We must learn to protect our environment," she said.

Quoting Sierra Leonean Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorities, chairman Weeks noted that the Freetown mudslide was caused by a more deliberate human activity than is usually associated with climate change and similar natural catastrophes. The affected area, Sugar Loaf, which is still covered on the top - at about 3,000 feet, by lush vegetation, is part of an allocation of supposedly protected areas officially called the Western Area Forest Reserve. Many environmental experts, since the Freetown tragedy, have said that the magnitude of damage caused by the mudslide in Sierra Leone was due to the government's failure to implement housing and environmental policies, something similar to the situation Liberia is currently facing.

In Liberia, like in Sierra Leone, floods happen every year. The country receives the highest rain fall per annum in the region. Major floods occur in the rainy season between May and November. "We heard that the mudslide and rain overwhelmed Freetown's drainage system, creating waterways that churned down steep streets across the capital. This is a similar situation that we face in this country every year during the rainy season. Why should we play the 'don't care' attitude with the environment? We are just doing construction randomly in this country without adhering to proper plans and policies. We build anywhere in this country. This is wrong. The environment will give us in return, what we have given earlier. We must be cognizant of this," she said.

Chairman Weeks later told the graduates to cultivate the attitude of hard work and the love of God if they are to succeed in their educational and earthly endeavors. "We must be people who put the love of God and hard work above every other thing."

She said education is the foundation of everything, but that it must go along with the fear of God, patience, dedication and good work ethics. "This is the only way you are going to succeed in life," she said.

The Catholic run institution graduated 452 students from five colleges.

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