Barely one week after President George Weah made known his intend to transform the Bali Island into "new Monrovia," local environmental conservation and advocacy organizations have said that the decision must be reconsidered as the Island is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention.
The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The Convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. In Liberia, it covers the Bali, on Bushrod Island in Monrovia, the Kpatawee Waterfalls, in Bong County, and the Gbedin Waterfalls, in Nimba County.
And because of this, authorities of the Liberia Center for Environmental Education and Research (LICER) have called on the Weah administration to rescind its decision wanting to transform the Bali Island into a city, where a proposed conference center will be named in honor of late Indian Prime Minister Mahatma Gandhi.
"Let the government select another location for this proposed project as Liberia is not short of land to build its many landmark infrastructures; therefore, the president should back-off from the plan," LICER said in a statement.
LICER Incorporated, in a recent press statement, recalled how in 2003, Liberia became a state party to the Ramsar Convention, which aimed is to protect wetlands as global horizon.
The statement further that the Ramsar Convention identified five wetlands of environmental importance to be saved and protected, which include Mesurado (Montserrado), Lake Piso (Cape Mount), Marshal (Margibi), Kpatawee (Bong) and Gbedin, in Nimba County.
Also, the statement, which referenced the Ramsar's annotated list of wetlands' international importance, added that the 6,760 hectares of wetland is important for the protection of three mangrove species (Rhizophora harrisonii, R. mangle and Avicennia africana), which are threatened by intense charcoal burning and fuel wood collection.
It added that the wetland also provides a favorable habitat and feeding ground for several species of birds, including the African spoonbill Platalea alba, Common Pratincole Glareola nuchaltis and Curlew Numenius arquata. The island is also a habitat for vulnerable African dwarf crocodile, the Nile crocodile and the African sharp-nosed crocodile, and plays an important role in shoreline stabilization and sediment trapping.
Moreover, LISER said that the violation by the Liberian government to habitat the Bali Island signals an "unwillingness to honor agreement made by its predecessors.
"Contrary to the tenets of the Ramsar Convention, Liberia has decided to violate the purpose of this all important legal document. The action of the George Weah-led government sends a clear signal that it is not prepared to honor any agreement entered into by its predecessors," the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Daily Observer has learned that authorities at the Ministry of Public Works has requested the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue an environmental certificate that would allow the project to ahead.
In that regard, it is reported that the EPA has requested government to conduct an environmental assessment on the Island before further discussion is held as to whether the project will proceed or not.
It can be recalled that in March, President Weah informed journalists during a tour of the Bali Island that he envisions skyscrapers, office buildings, shopping malls, banks, insurance companies, night clubs, beautiful lights and magnificent colors flourishing there.