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Tackling Deforestation in Liberia: A Quest For Greener Future

Tackling Deforestation in Liberia: A Quest For Greener Future

Liberia’s forest is under serious threat.  There are massive legal and illegal logging activities everywhere in the forest. Chainsawing is at its highest level.  Protected forest areas are being invaded on the quest for mineral resources, firewood, and human settlement. 

Traditional sacred trees are unmercifully cut while secret forests conserved for many years are depleting at an unbelievable rate.  The precious forests are dreadfully being cut down every single day.

Mounting scientific evidence and much prodding from environmental justice advocates point to rapid deforestation of Liberia’s forests.  There is loss of biodiversity, depletion of forest resources and changes in the weather pattern. 

Certainly, there is a need to enforce the acceptance of forest-protection policies in Liberia and dedicate more portions of the forests as protected areas.  The Norwegian intervention of 150 million dollars to stop deforestation is a step in the right direction, but more need to be done to ensure the million dollars program adapt a people-oriented approach.  This clearly demonstrates how deforestation needs to be addressed, because it erodes human well-being and economies.

During the regime of former President Charles Taylor Liberia’s forest was unrestrainedly exploited for the benefit of a few handful of greedy and well-connected individuals.  On top of that, the Taylor-led regime vividly illustrate how timber resources were mortgaged without proper conservation and actions. 

As a result, in 2003, when the United Nations imposed a sanction on Liberia, mainly timber exports, it was due to corruption, revenue embezzlement and the depletion of forest resources.  However, the ban was lifted following negotiation and review of logging activities by the Sirleaf-led administration. 

Even with all the rigorous procedures and processes put into place, a few members of the ruling establishment continue to single-handedly benefit from the forest resources. 

A classic example is the misuse and abuse of the Private Use Permit coupled with ownership of most logging companies belonging to government officials.  While a few wealth-obsessed individuals are cutting down the trees, the effects of changes in the weather pattern are being felt across the already poverty-stricken country.

A study has shown that forests provide protection against flooding. Therefore, the unabated loss of forests in Liberia due to the illegal logging which has become abundant may exacerbate the number of the flood we are currently experiencing.  It may also increase related disasters with severe negative impact on the environment and inflict million dollars on the economy. Sadly, illegal logging without reforestation is a bad news for glaring and galloping effects of global warming.  

With the facts that forests are linked with flood risk and severity in many developing countries like Liberia.  This article consented on the issue of reinforcing large-scale forest protection to protect human welfare and suggests that reforestation may help to reduce the frequency and severity of flood-related catastrophes.

We argued that reforestation can be regarded as part of the solution to stop deforestation by 2020 in achieving sustainable change and cut down of emission. Considering the measure in controlling flooding we seek the way forward in meeting these challenges.

Background and Introduction

In challenging the status quo by maintaining stringent and healthy environmental terrain in Liberia, this article seeks to address serious environmental problems, including deforestation and flooding.  Highlighting these problems and finding a suitable remediable solution is of the essence as Liberia faces a rapid pollution growth, poverty, strange flooding, and extreme temperature changes gearing towards sustainable development.

The scaring environmental movement in solidifying the debate and solving environmental issues in Liberia seems to be a nightmare. Instead of conserving the natural resources carefully, explicating it with environmental caution and using it efficiently, but sadly Liberia finds itself afflicted by the consequences of inappropriate policies, the right person to do the job (unjustifiable nepotism) which has led to having endemic political instability and an inability to manage Liberia’s economies and natural resources effectively.

The need of rigid environmental policies, innovative technologies and engineering scientific methods in protecting the environment of Liberia needs to be given strong awareness with the best minds and incorporated strategies that will yield to sustainable economic development in Liberia.

Liberia is a sub-Saharan Country located in West Africa with a considerable remaining rainforest indicating about 43% of the Upper Guinean forest. After 14 years of civil war and devastation, Liberia has experienced a tremendous economic growth and relative peace and stability compared to recent past regime.  

Liberia is endowed with many natural resources including one of the most respected earthly natural resources “Oil” based on African Petroleum seismic report and the economic growth is predominantly based on the use of these resources.

Regardless of the economic growth and its fragile peace, Liberia is facing many challenges.  In governing any country as natural resource dependence, the issue of providing sound economy by adapting and accommodating policies that seek to have an adverse effect on the citizen.  It signifies the healthy meaning of that country trajectory. By reinventing the wheel on the ecosystem, constraints on environmental variables and natural resource which have the propensity to enhance positive growth and development of Liberia economy is being looked at carefully.

An evidentiary map clearly illustrates how Liberia has been blessed with it ecological inheritance within the Upper Guinea Forest. Interestingly, the Liberian forest encompasses with many wildlife including fruits, nuts, and traditional medicines.

Without any doubt, Liberia accounts for more than half of West Africa’s remaining Upper Guinean tropical forest. Though Liberia contains the largest remaining forest blocks in the Upper Guinea region, but what is scaring is the threats and challenges faced with biodiversity conservation due to the illegal logging.

Recently in four years, flooding has been seen to be a gradually more common occurrence throughout Monrovia and many parts of the country.  As such, the level of preparedness for any future flooding needs supervision.  These changes have raised many questions about the impact of climate change in relation to the flood in Liberia through an illegal deforestation and human activities. 

There is a resounding question: What is the involvement of Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Land Mines and Energy, Forestry Development Authority, Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Legislature doing to tackle deforestation?

Today, our West African neighbouring coastal countries are mitigating and finding a solution due to the impact of climate change on the flood regimes. The improvement of reliable drainage systems and surveillance on our beaches needs to be given serious attention for protection and safeguard our environment. Although Liberia has a low coastal plain which seems to be a factor, but yet still; the urgent protection of the coastal need serious management in the mitigation and controlling flooding.

This is a complete irony that West Africa is contributing very little to the issue of global warming because of low industrial development, but we are already experiencing effects of global warming. This is laughable and challenging. 

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, there are three climate change consequences that lead to flooding which includes: rising sea levels, quick- melting snow and more rainfall. Holding on to the IPCC report, Liberia is confronted with low coastal plain and more rainfall. 

Rising sea levels suddenly increase and lead to flooding based on the low coastal plain of Liberia due to prolong and heavy rainfall that has been experienced recently.  For the past four years of rainy season in Liberia, floods are becoming more frequent or more severe and to the extent roads blockage and devastation on coastal communities and homes got smash up. 

All the more so, a good number of parents and guardians in rural Liberia who depends on sustenance farming are faced with sudden change from the climatic condition. 

Unlike before, many rural farmers do not know when they will start planting; others who have planted cannot tell when they will harvest while for some the harvest is not just possible owing to the changing temperature and weather patterns.  Already impoverished, many children are used as breadwinners for parents and guardians who are jobless.   

Effect of Floods in Liberia

Most coastal communities in Liberia largely inhabited by underprivileged and underserved segment of the population run the risk of becoming history with wreckages beneath the vast ocean floor. 

From 2011-2016, the issue of sea erosion is troubling. Many of the coastal communities including Monrovia and others Counties have faced a severing consequence. The results shows the existence of trends in flood magnitude and flood casualty for the past four years.

Considering the precipitation along the coast of west African which is high, where rainfall is high with its lowest salinity in the Gulf of Guinea and the experience of semi-diurnal tide, this should be an indication that the coastline of West African countries have to be careful due to effect of global warming and the alteration of the North and South poles. 

For the east coast of Madagascar, the Mediterranean coast of Egypt experience mixed spring tide range mostly. Liberia has a semi-diurnal tide which has two high and two low waters tidal.  In other words, whenever the sea level rises, the effect of the semidiurnal current will lead to flooding based on the high precipitation and heavy rainfall in Liberia. 

Forest

Without any uncertainty, the forest of Liberia is one of the unrivalled in West African in terms of its species and herbs. Miserably, the forest of Liberia is threatened by human activities.

From 2003 to 2012, the forest of Liberia has been depleted through Illegal logging leaving the forest into a blind alley by losing approximately 400,000 hectares with an average rate of 9,000 hectares per year. The deforestation rate is 0.6% in Liberia and this rate is so high to the extent that is about three times the global average.

With the continuation of deforestation, Liberia considered being vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events.  Forest loss is often associated with loss of habitat and biodiversity and reduced resilience to extreme climate events. These elicit practices are actually alarming and no wonder why the gradual change of weather condition is worrisome. Deforestation has severe environmental consequences.

Overall, when the forests are cleared, habitat, environment or species are destroyed and biodiversity is wholly diminished.  Clearing the forest of Liberia is hampering our atmosphere while causing more carbon dioxide to remain in the air, upsetting the delicate balance of the atmospheric gasses. So, one may ponder why harm our environment and the future generation?

Scouting developed sustainable forest and protecting the precious ecosystem in Liberia is very urgent. In recent times the highest recorded temperature in November has been 39°C that is 101°F, with the lowest recorded temperature 16°C, about 60°F

Liberia weather condition is dangerously becoming abnormal and there is a need to stop deforestation of the remaining forest of Liberia to prevent overheating and heavy irregular rainfall. 

A massive protest to cancelled permit in 2012 was a genius step by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Madam Sirleaf adheres to international disparagement in the submission of terminating licenses given to companies to do deforestation, but what is more saddened is the 58% of the primary rainforest that was going to be lacerated.  Notwithstanding, illegal logging is still going on.

Short-term financial rewards have to stop and take into account of environmental cost and long term benefits of the generation. Because saving forest is one of the speedy ways to avoid dangerous climate change like the change of temperature and flooding and is in the self-interest of the nation in shifting economic development.  

When the environment is in excellent condition, there is a better assortment of future development alternative. 

For instance, in deforested and environmentally degraded locale, the chance for Liberia to broaden its horizons strategies in favour of reducing future susceptibility is greatly abridged. 

Based on application, it is a great deal to handle in reducing potential risks when your natural resources currently are viable and intact; your choices simply are greater.

Early in September 2014, the intrusion of the Norwegian government to stop ineffectual logging activities by 2020 in Liberia is applauding.  Resultantly, Liberia was compelled to accept funding because a neighboring country in West Africa has accepted and agreed to stop deforestation in 2020.

The motive of the funds will be given in meeting basic needs for rural dwellers for protecting the forest, having a rigorous capacity building to monitor and keep watch over the forests in stopping specific environmental problems such as ozone depletion, deforestation, global warming and acid rain.

Floods are primarily caused by heavy rainfall. Although all countries of the world are subject to annual flooding of different magnitude, but the implementation of numerous flood alleviation measure to reduce the adverse impacts of the unwanted event in terms of hardship and economics constrained is by protecting biodiversity (Forest). 

Worst of all, inadequate dredging of riverbeds for sand mining activities, disruption of existing drainage system by road construction without adequate culverts and by building of unplanned houses are actually disturbing and contributing to flooding. Liberia has exactly 350 miles coastline, coastal lagoons and mangroves, rainforest and mountainous plateaus while 45% of the total land comprises of a rainforest.

Liberia is experiencing something called Coastal and River Floods due to its geographical location. The influence of the river floods is because of heavy and prolongs rainfall. Many rivers in Liberia, when rainfall heavily, it overflows their banks because it raises high and spread water result into the flood zone, where floating debris causes a jam.  Such debris flows tend to occur primarily in the dry season. Liberia has a low coastal plain and semidiurnal tide. 

Additionally, Liberia has experienced coastal floods that caused extreme sea level, which arise due to the tide. For that reason, the occurrence of a massive flood from the ocean should not be a strange factor, but mitigation or control measure can be handling.  It is also important to note that coastal flooding generally caused by extremely heavy precipitation which Liberia is of no exception.

Consequently, Liberia rainfall is heavier passed other part of the west coast of Africa that also have high precipitation except for  Freetown Peninsula in Sierra Leone and a small isolated location near Buea in Cameroon. The annual rainfall near the coast is nearly 4550 mm (180 inches) but the amount has exceeded this in some years due to climate change.  

This year dry season, it might not be surprising for a temperature to exceed 105◦F. For example, the recent River, and coastal floods affected many residences in 2016 show a warning sign for the dry season.

Between May and June of 2016, heavy downpour of rain affected central Monrovia and its environs which resulted in floods including Margibi, Lofa county and Grand Bassa and Robersport . The affectation of various places close to the coastline like New Kru Town, Robertsport and Grand Bassa are feeling the impact of sea erosion. Generally, the coastal have a large human population and these residents are particularly vulnerable to damages cause by flooding.

As global warming increases without regulating deforestation and human activities in Liberia, Liberia will greatly be affected by floods by the increase of water level with an expected sea level of 0.6-1.0 m by 2100, an average increase in annual temperatures from the 1970-99 average of 0.9-2.6°C by the 2060s, and of 1.4-4.7°C by the 2090s.

Since we have low coastal plain and deforestation is out of control with the anticipation to stop cutting down trees by 2020, actions remediation methods have to be put into operation or service to better understand and address climate change challenges throughout the country. With the potential impact of climate change on agricultural productivity and mortality, the results imply that future climate change may substantially hamper our economic growth.

Thus, Economic effects of climate harnesses have to be taking into consideration as a major factor because it has the propensity in damaging the economy. Preventing those expenses with proper climate policies ought as an economic benefit.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Liberians should not sit reluctantly and wait for their government to take action first, but instead every Liberian must begin to create an environmentally aware culture through research, education and people centered grassroots initiatives like environmental restoration, ecosystem rehabilitation and planting trees campaign in every community across the country.

The unfolding danger, direct threats to the environment and its species including biodiversity which caused by deforestation and human activities is thwarting. And flooding the complexities of environmental issues that vary from deforestation, pollution, environmental degradation flooding has significant impacts on human health. 

Destruction of the Liberia tropical rain forest is of great concern. The rapid increases in human population threaten the unique biodiversity of Liberia with a recent population growth of 4,615,222 Million.

These effects from global warming might coerce Agricultural production and reduced access to the availability of food. Considering the global climate change which is said to be legitimate science debate, Liberia is going to suffice when laws and rules are enforced to sustain the environment.

The Concession that comprises natural resource (forestry, agricultural, hydrocarbon, and mining) which help in changing the economic paradigm shift in Liberia in its positive trajectory has not been taken seriously.

Economic profitability and environmental standards relative on all of these concessions was not properly managed due to the lack of opportunity for participation, transparency, and accountability. Today, our forest has been mortgaged without positive rewards where climate change is at the face of Liberia.

The following recommendations are opt of the possible conservation of the forest and mitigation of flooding:  Implementing a sustainable reforestation program and a technique involves putting large area of forestlands especially lowland under the control of indigenous people for agricultural activities thus providing a continuous food supply.  

In a relatively short period of time, the Forestry Development Authority should reserve the loss of forest habitat within Liberia until the goal of its original mandate to ensure a sustainable development agenda for our generation. Liberia is already experiencing climate change.

Establish a transparent independent institution in policing concession processes and monitoring social and environmental conditions until sustainability are met.  Environmental awareness with civil society and involvement in the midst of concession companies in conducting environmental assessments in protection the ecosystem. 

Establish a flood forecasting since the warning is a prerequisite for successful mitigation of flood damage. Due to its effectiveness depends on the level of preparedness and correct response, train interest people.  Hence, the responsible authorities should provide timely and reliable flood warning, flood forecasting and information. 

Constructing walls high enough to keep floodwater out around the coastline and river communities that have the likelihood of flood can be an effective way of keeping flood damage to a minimum.  Together, let us work to make a greener country where deforestation and flood can become history told to future generation.

About Authors:

Stephen B. Lavalah is an advocate and the Founder & Executive Director of Youth Exploring Solutions (YES), a passionate, non-profit and voluntary grassroots youth-led development organization. For more information about YES

Ambulai Johnson is a young Liberian Environmentalist who hails from Gbarpolu County. A prospective Ph.D. student of Energy, Environmental and Chemical engineering at Washington University St. Louise, USA. Ambulai holds a Bachelor's of science degree from Cuttington University, Liberia  and a Master of Science degree from Coventry University, England alone with many Postgraduate Professional Certificates including NEBOSH, IOSH, GIS AND GLOBAL LEADERSHIP. Currently conducts series of environmental feasibility stimulation studies for possible environmental mitigation -  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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