President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has issued Executive Order No. 68 establishing a Taskforce against the Encroachment on Beachfronts, Waterways and Wetlands.
The Taskforce comprises the Chairman of the Land Commission (Chair), Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (Co-chair), and the Ministers of Justice, Internal Affairs, Public Works, Lands, Mines and Energy and Information, Culture and Tourism as members.
Others members are the Inspector-General of the Liberia National Police and Local Municipal Authorities.
An Executive Mansion release said, the Task Force Terms of Reference (TOR) include: provide technical and administrative support to the Inter-Agency Committee (IAC) on Encroachments on wetlands, beach and river fronts; support offices and local authorities including Township Commissioners in ensuring that citizens and residents adhere and conform to prescribed and established policy and regulatory regimes for managing and regulating the use and conservation/reservation of wetlands, beach and riverfronts; report and document all violations and violators of established regulations, policies and laws; process violators for legal proceedings and actions and develop interim, immediate-to-long term policy and regulatory guidelines/regimes needed for the management of wetlands, beach and river fronts.
They are also to develop and support the implementation of programs to sensitize and raise awareness for all residents and citizens about the economic potentials and environmental implications of wetlands, beach and river fronts; submit a quarterly report to the Inter-agency Committee outlining problems, challenges and achievements in the management of wetlands, beach and river fronts; monitor all developments within and surrounding these established zones (distances) un-allowed for un-approved developments; support and conduct assessments of potential uses of wetlands, beach and river fronts in conjunction and collaboration with relevant public and private entities; and perform other tasks as may be deemed necessary by the Inter-agency Committee.
However, the TOR may be altered and updated from time to time by an IAC to respond to the prevailing realities and conditions.
President Sirleaf, in Executive Order No. 68, indicated that Government has realized the extreme damaging effect that encroachment on beachfronts, waterways and wetlands poses to the environment and the life of residents and citizens.
She noted that Liberia signed the Ramsar Convention in 2003 as a commitment to join the campaign for the protection of wetlands and in recognition of the importance of ensuring the sustainable use of the ecosystem and maintaining the decency of beachfronts, waterways and wetlands, the Liberian Government, through the Maritime Commission, initiated a project in 2013 to clean the beaches in and around Monrovia.
Section 75 (1) of the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia empowers the Environmental Protection Agency in consultation with the relevant line Ministry to make guidelines and prescribe measures for protection of rivers, lakes and wetlands.
President Sirleaf noted that despite these guidelines and regulations to protect beachfronts, waterways and wetlands which exist on the books, these measures are not being enforced by the requisite agencies; consequently, people continue to encroach on these natural resources.
“The numerous un-sanitary encroachments and unwarranted uses of waterways and wetlands continue to increase environmental degradation in Liberia,” Executive Order No. 68 stresses, adding that urgent measures of sustainable environmental management and protection of these ecosystems need to be taken without delay and urgent interventions that may curtail time lapses leading to permanent loss or destruction are required.