The Capital City of Liberia-Monrovia, despite the huge number of international guests paying regular visits to war-torn Liberia in the last nine years for various reasons, seems not to be moved by its unpleasant outlook.
I strongly believe that Liberia continues to attract this encouraging number of visitors during the past nine years because things are gradually improving when it comes to security and constructive image building, among other positive developments.
Despite the fact that we are part and parcel of the global community, characterized by the construction of modern structures through appropriate regulations, the case of Liberia, turning 165 years by July 26 this year is different.
I initially thought there were no zoning regulations in Liberia, the fact that people have been erecting structures in an increasing indiscriminate manner.
Thanks are to God that that we have zoning laws, contrary to the way I personally looked at things from the onset.
These regulations are supposed to separate industrial areas from residential ones. But the case is still different because the regulations are not apparently being enforced as clearly seen by the increasing makeshift structures in Monrovia and parts adjacent, least to talk about substandard garages along the shoulders of street, especially along the Gardnerville-Somalia Drive Road, and even in the Jacob Town -Paynesville vicinity,just to put forth an example.
In a chat with the Public Relations Officer at the Public Works Ministry, Jusufu Kieta this week, he was bold to confirm the existence of zoning regulations for Liberia. The Ministry of Public Works PRO was however quick to acknowledge some of the challenges being faced by the Ministry when it comes to implementing these laws.
All individuals and instutitions desirious of undertaking any construction must first obtain a permit from the Public Works Ministry, in accordance with zoning regulations, though as old as the 1950’s when we are in the 21st Century.
Kieta told me that there are instances in which those who are stopped by the Public Works Ministry from continuing with certain construction go to courts and get ‘authoritative’ documents that override the decision of the Ministry. What a shame!
In this case, is the Ministry of Public Works not portraying the characteristics of large but toothless bull dog? Or doesn’t suggest that government is fighting itself when it is supposed to be working together to enforce national policies?
This might have given rise to the manner in which people are running here and there erecting structures the way they feel like doing
But Kieta rejected allegations of weakness against his entity and said at present, there is a moratorium on the issuance of permits until certain things can be put into place, if I got him right on this point.
In other countries, no body, no matter his status or connection jumps from the blue sky to build where they want to build. There are zoning laws-setting aside industrial places from residential areas. But the case of Liberia is still different.
As you walk around Monrovia and parts adjacent, industrial installations are seen in places so densely inhabited by people. Where you suppose to see industrial installations is where, without any remorse, some people mount structures intended for human dwelling. What a catastrophe!
It is so disheartening to see people just build here and there without leaving a little space for passage. Alleys left out by government are covered by structures, either deliberately or complete lack of knowledge about the importance of the alleys. When there is a fire outbreak, several other structures are consumed because of their proximity. But again there are regulations regarding the distance that should be between every two houses.
The construction of houses directly under light poles is another dangerous undertaking that we need to stop. This is very risky for structures to be erected immediately under towering light poles. The danger involved in this aspect is a two- forth matter- the light pole either falls on top the house or one of the power-driven wires could fall on top the building. Are we considering public safety when building these structures?
But there supposed to be regulations concerning how far a structure should be away from the light pole. For roads, I have been told by the Ministry of Public Works that it is 50 ft, 75ft or 150ft depending on certain conditions.
Scores of Liberians who have seen or visited other countries in the West African Sub-region or elsewhere have laid accusing fingers at the doors of the Ministry of Public Works for its alleged weakness or failure to enforce the zoning regulations of Liberia to the letter. There are other Liberians who strongly believe that lack of awareness by those who are charged with the responsibility to enforce the zoning laws of Liberia is also contributing to the continued defacing of Monrovia.
‘’ The other issue is that the zoning laws are not being implemented. If there is any form of enforcement, it may just be on the surface and not in detail.’’ A passerby told me in an angry mood as I was wrapping up my interaction with some inconsequential traders in Central Monrovia recently.
What Happens When Zoning Laws Are On Holiday?
There are a number of challenges posed by the failure of relevant government agencies to implement our country’s zoning laws or when people willfully ignore them.
1. It hinders the work of the police and other national institutions, charged with law enforcement and public safety measures. For instance, there are instances in which police officers trying to go after alleged armed robbers or other criminals fail in making an arrest because structures are so jammed up to the extent that these security personnel find it difficult to reach some of the affected places.
2.The case of fire fighters is also the same. When staff of the Liberia National Fire Service try to rush to troubled areas, their work is most often hampered due to congestion caused by the indiscriminate erecting of structures. It is unfortunate that some impatient Liberians go to the point of attacking the fire fighters when they do not succeed in putting off the fire. I was once told by former Fire Service boss, the Late Joseph B.A. Derrick during an exclusive with him in 2008 on an ELTVnow LNTV program-Reflection On Society that some Liberians, mainly young people were in the habit of attacking personnel from the Liberia National Fire Service whenever they did not succeed in putting off fire during fire disasters in Monrovia and its environs. The old man even said there were other cases in which people raised false alarm and made the Fire Service Bureau to waste its meager resources by running long distances just to realize that there was not fire outbreak at all.
2. The indiscriminate building of structures in many parts of Monrovia and parts adjacent is also hampering the work of those who are involved in construction. I mean, there are people who want to build, but some of them find it difficult to take building materials from one point to the other because one hardly finds a space within or in between to pass.
This is economically harmful because they have to assemble these materials at one point, and then look for people who will begin carrying the materials on the head.
There are times some of the building materials get stolen because of the time it takes to get everything to the construction site.
Another issue that needs immediate attention is the construction of homes without toilet facilities. How can someone build a house without attaching toilet facilities?
3. Liberia, mainly our capital City Monrovia is still carrying a disorganized look due to the constant unsystematic building of structures without respect to the zoning laws of Liberia, especially in the 21st Century.
In other countries, I am told that no one is allowed to construct a house without first of all making sure that toilet facilities are built.
This thing has been going on for too long in Liberia. I am however thankful that some improvement is being made in this direction as people are getting to understand the importance of attaching toilet facilities to their houses.
1. The need for sustained public awareness by the Public Works Ministry, to include, the media, civil society, religious and traditional leaders and the student community, etc.
2. Enforcing the zoning regulations of Liberia to the letter, as anything to the contrary may even give credence to allegations of selective tactics by the Public Works Ministry in promoting these regulations.
The author can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org 0r 0886560455
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