Livelihood Fears: Bassa Residents Divided Over a Crucial Erosion Project
Buchanan, Grand Bassa County – Sea erosion is the most graved environmental challenge, altering the lives of thousands of slum dwellers in coastal communities. Residents of West Point in Monrovia are now relocating while the D. Tweh High school in New Kru Town is being washed away by strong sea waves.
In Buchanan, several communities including Upper Buchanan, Atlantic Street, Korkorwein Community and both Big and Small Fanti Towns are under serious threat from the aggression of the Atlantic Ocean waves.
Thankfully, a project which started over two years ago and under the watchful eyes of the UNDP, GEF and the Ministries of Land Mines and Energy and Public Works appear to be on track in preventing coastal erosion in Liberia’s second largest capital city although there have also been concerns of beach sand mining sanctioned by the county administration on several beaches in the county. Heavy rocks are being mounted along the coast to prevent the ocean from further washing away homes.
But there are lingering concerns from hundreds of fishermen in Buchanan who say their livelihood is under threat and they want the coastal defense project to be redesigned in other to allow them continue their artisanal fishing – their main source of livelihood.
Fisherman Patrick Seyiah says they only rely on the ocean to take care of their family, so he wants government through the coastal defense project to create means so that fishing activities can continue in the county,
“They are carrying out the project, but where the space is opened for us the fishermen to carry on the fishing activities.”
“This sea erosion project will be a problem for us,” explains William Dixion, another fisherman. “This is where we survive, and family and us, so if they say they will block the place then it will be a serious problem for our fishing activities.”
Over a thousand fishermen residing in both small and Big Fanti Towns in the Port City of Buchanan risk losing their livelihood considering the existing design and plan of the coastal defense project in Grand Bassa County.
Like the fishermen, almost two hundred women who frequently purchase and sell retail sea fishes on a daily basis at the local markets are also very worried.
“I’m not selling fish these few days because my husband cannot go on the sea and it is because of the work that these people are doing here,” said Blessing Morris, who was buttressed by several others who claimed that they appreciate the project but want government to also create means for their business to continue.
‘Government really need to do something about our fishing business; I’m saying this because this is the only thing we are depending on to send our children to school and take care of our family,” added Mamie Dixion, another fish-seller.
Buchanan currently has one of the biggest fishing communities in the country and has also suffered sea erosion, but with the fear and concerns coming from these locals, there might be other social challenges for these artisanal fishing communities once the looming coastal threat is eased.
There are also speculations from locals in Buchanan that the project may discontinue due to limited funding from government and her partners.
Solving Locals Concerns is Expensive
Paye Kula is the Senior Project Coordinator at Lands, Mines and Energy (LME); he says more than a year ago funding was not forthcoming, something which has slowed the project but he’s grateful the project is back on course.
He refused to tell FrontPageAfrica more about the status of funding for the project but rather recommended senior officials of what he called upper management level at the LME, adding that ‘there’s always issues with resources with these kinds of projects’.
At the same time, the Project Supervising Engineer, Abel Flomo, responding to suggestions and concerns from the Buchanan coastal communities said the ongoing project has a scope and definite plan in terms of infrastructure design which could be expensive to redesign, stressing that only upper management (government) can make the necessary calls in other to make changes.
He however disclosed that his technical team on the ground is apt to redesigning the project which will adequately avert the social impact the project may create for locals including fishermen.
“I have the capacity, the ability to change (and) modify the plan if agree upon by the upper management to give access way for their fishing, but it may also be cost intensive,” he said.
Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, FPA STAF WRITER