By: Jeremiah Sackie Cooper
Liberia-March 27, 2023: It is three (3) years running since the completion and dedication of the Japanese Freeway through a grant from the government of Japan to Liberia, but the road has become a center for garbage disposal.
Our reporter visiting the freeway discovered huge pile of garbage within the drainages and the side of the road, thus creating complications health complications for road users and nearby community dwellers.
According to our Reporter, all the drainages have been blocked as a result of the huge amount of dirt disposed by people believed to be residents of
communities along the road and disadvantaged youths. Some residents claimed that disadvantaged youths collect garbage from communities for livelihood and dump them on the streets.
Road users complained of the odor from the dirt pile along the road, which according to them, complicates breathing or taking in air freely.
Based on the misuse of the road, some residents and road users are calling on the government to intervene to ensure a garbage free Japanese Freeway.
“I feel very bad about this road condition. Each time we pass by we get bad smell. People keep dumping dirt on the road. We have our brothers that we call Zogos, m these people go around collect dirt from people houses, they can’t carry it to the dirt centre, they come here and waste the dirt here. The dirt cause health problem and suffocation from the burning of the dirt when we inhaled it we get sick”, George – a resident of Steven Tolbert Estate along the Japanese Freeway noted.
“I don’t feel fine seeing people wasting dirt on the road. It create bad environment for us. We that are passing near the dirt inhaled all kinds of bad bad things. We want for the community people to stop wasting dirt on the street. Even this dirt can damage the road. Government spent lot of money to fix the road. It also create bad environment for us. We the community dwellers make the government, so when we see anyone dumping dirt here, we arrest them and take them to the police station”, Amos Kelsey – a student travelling along the road stressed.
In June 2013, the Japanese government and the government of Liberia signed a grant aid agreement for the reconstruction of the road today known as the” Japanese Freeway”.
An total of 95 million was estimated for the road construction.The cost of the phase one project was estimated at US$50 Million, while phase two was put at US$45 Million.
The construction of the road began during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in February 2014 but was later suspended due to the outbreak of the Ebola virus. The road project resumed in October 2015 and was finally completed by the CDC-led government headed by former soccer player George Weah in 2018. The road is one of the best roads in the country currently, and even in the sub-region named in honour of the Japanese counterpart.
During the dedication in 2018, Liberians were seen jubilating for the road which would ease traffic congestion and transportation needs for commuters of the freeway.
Dedicating the road, President Weah cautioned all would-be users and members of the communities to help in the maintenance of the road.
“We all have a responsibility to maintain this gift which has been given to us. Do not build makeshift market on the road! Do not throw garbage in the gutters and drainages! Do not throw trash on the road. My fellow Liberians, let us all do our part as responsible citizens”.
But it seemed that the President’s warning had fallen on deaf ears as the Japanese Freeway is now covered in mountains of dirt.
Waste management is one of the challenges confronting the Liberian nation. Most cities including the country’s capital is covered in garbage.
In October 2021, the head of the European Union Mission to Liberia, Laurent Delahouse said that the Liberia capital Monrovia is dirty and disgusting after the pouring in of donors’ aid to clean up the city.
Garbage disposal appears to be reaching a proportional crisis. On 20 December 2022 the Paynesville City Cooperation through its official Facebook page disclosed that garbage are being dumped at night by vehicles owned by lawmakers and private citizens, something the PCC described as an act of undermining their work and the creation of unhealthy city for the people of Paynesville.
“This is unfair to the City Government and People of Paynesville. While our team is working day and night to ensure that our City is clean, there are people who are knowingly undermining our efforts. Tonight while working, our team came in contact with a vehicle bearing the license plate of one our lawmakers dumping a pickup load of garbage on the main road at King Gray community. We also impounded another vehicle belonging to a private citizen caught in similar act. We see this as a calculated attempt intended to cripple our quest of keeping Paynesville clean”, PCC authorities noted.
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) 2007 report found that sustainable approach to waste management within Liberia is one that must integrate sanitary as well as social objectives, ensure a profitable, reliable service and raise public awareness on health related concerns.
The report Furthered that there is a need to bring together the public, private and community based actors, and to give them well defined responsibilities in the various fields from preliminary collection to recycling. “One suggested way of strengthening institutional capacity for waste management in Liberia would be first of all to raise the “profile” and capacity of the public authorities in charge of this sector, in particular the Environmental Protection Agency. Finally, to give such an initiative a realistic chance of success, environment in general, and waste management specifically, needs to be embraced within the highest level of the political and legislative community within Liberia”, the report noted.