Monrovia — East International Group, the Chinese firm reconstructing the Robertsfield Highway, has acknowledged violating the Environmental Protection and Management Law (EPML) of Liberia and has apologized for the level of damage done to the Marshall Wetland in Margibi County.
However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has placed a US$ 150,000.00 fine on the company.
East Int'l has assured the EPA of restoring the wetland it degraded by the building of a 2.0 km access road in the wetland.
The EPA recently shut down Fengshou International, a rock quarry owned and operated by East International and Sino Liberia to illegally backfill a portion of the Marshall Wetland in violation of the EPML and operational licenses issued to them by the EPA.
Marshall is one of Liberia's wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty signed and reached in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran to protect wetlands across the country.
But, East International flouted the halt order and continuously backfilled the wetland, thus prompting a meeting with its CEO, Cao Yunfeug who has apologized to the EPA for the company's defiant stance.
In a letter of apology dated 11 January 2023, Mr. Cao said "we sincerely apologize for whatever violation we have done against the rules and regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency Laws of the Republic of Liberia."
He also assured that the company will adhere to all environmental laws.
"In this regard, East International Group, Inc. does hereby commit to the Government of Liberia through the Environmental Protection Agency that there will be a full and total restoration of the wetlands in line with the Ramsar Conventions following the completion of the Road Construction Project," Mr. Cao said.
The decision to lift the shutdown order follows a meeting with East International Group and the Ministry of Public Works on 12 January 2023.
"Considering the critical nature of the RIA road construction work and as clarified by the Ministry of Public Works that your project relies primarily on Fengshou Rock Quarry and in the spirit of promoting sustainable development, the Agency thereby lifts the temporary shutdown order," EPA Executive Director, Prof. Wilson K. Tarpeh said in a letter to lift the halt order.
During the January 12 meeting, East International acknowledged violating the Environmental Protection and Management Law (EPML) of Liberia and apologized for the level of damage done to the Marshall Wetland in Margibi County.
The Agency also asked East International and Fenshou International to immediately halt all backfilling of the Marshall Wetland, including further expansion of their rock quarry.
The EPA also requested the Chinese companies to create an operational activities plan in addition to the existing environmental management plan to run the quarry and haul rock aggregates.
East International uses the existing route which was being utilized before the backfilling and construction of the illegal haulage road.
According to Prof. Tarpeh, the unauthorized backfilling and the alteration of the Marshall wetland is contrary to section 75 of the Environmental Protection and Management (EPML).
East International CEO, Mr. Cao promised to provide within a week, a comprehensive plan on how his firm will restore the degraded wetland following the completion of the RIA road project.