EPA shutdown East International and SINO
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Liberia over the weekend temporarily shut down the operation of Fengshou International, a rock quarry belonging to East International.
The Chinese firm reconstructing the Roberts International Airport (RIA) Highway has been punished for violating several provisions of the Environmental Protection and Management Laws of Liberia (EPML) as well as the environmental permit issued to the company.
The decision to shut down Fengshou International’s rock quarry located in Schelinflin Town, Margibi County, according to authorities at the EPA is based on the persistent non-compliance and defiance posture of the company to adhere to EPA’s recommendations communicated to it after a full-scale assessment of its project on 19 October 2022 as well as the repeated backfilling of a critical ecosystem of international importance to construct a 2.0 km of literate road.
It can be recalled that East International applied for an environmental permit last year to construct a 2.0 km access road in the wetlands from the Fenshou Rock quarry to the RIA main road, but the EPA, after a pre-assessment of the project’s feasibility, denied the project in a communicated 28 October 2022 (ED.EPA-01/01589/22RL) and warned East to desist from any development of the said project. As part of the due process, several non-compliance communications were sent to East and Meetings were held, but the company did not show any willingness or remorse for its destruction of the natural environment.
The environmental permit issued for the operation of the rock quarry does not include the backfilling of any wetlands, but the Management of East International continued to massively backfilled and compromise the integrity of the Marshall Wetland as a result of the quarry operation. The said wetlands are currently undergoing gazettement as one of Liberia’s landscapes of international importance under the RAMASAR Convention to which Liberia is a signatory.
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands across the world, since 1971 in the City of Ramsar, Iran.
EPA Executive Director, Prof. Wilson K. Tarpeh in a temporary shutdown notice addressed to the company dated 4 January 2023, said East International’s action violated Part VI: Section 75 of the EPML and could be liable to a fine not less than US$ 5,000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years if the company refuses to complete the restoration of the degraded wetlands.
He disclosed that the company has also violated several instruments including ‘Sections 10.0 of two separate permits issued it, the 2021 Revised Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Procedural Guidelines, which is detrimental to Liberia’s commitment to adhere to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), especially the RAMSAR Convention.
Prof. Tarpeh noted that shutdown order will remain in force until the company fully restores the wetlands and the said restoration is certified by the EPA.
He cautioned East International Group’s CEO, Cao Yunfeng against operating the quarry.
Prof. Tarpeh said: “You are strongly advised from carrying out any operation associated with the said quarry until the restoration of the degraded wetlands is completed and approved by the EPA.”
In a related development, the Management of SINO Liberia was also involved in the illegal backfilling of the same wetlands and was complained by a community-based organization last week and upon investigation, the Management of SINO Liberia was issued a halt order and invited to a conference at EPA this week to show cause, while the halt order shall remain in full force until a full investigation of the situation is completed.