African Development Bank-Funded Contractor Accused of Polluting Nimba Village

KARNPLAY, Nimba – Residents of Henry Barhn Village on the Sanniquellie-Karnplay Highway are threatening legal action against the China Railway Seventh Group, the construction company paving the Sehkimpa-Loguatuo Road Corridor. They said the company is polluting their farms and drinking water.

The African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank are financing the road construction. The project is part of Phase II of the Mano River Union Road Development and Transportation Facilitation Program. This initiative aims to support the regional integration of the Mano River Union states: Liberia, Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

The villagers said their latest decision is due to the delay of the company and the Environment Protection Agency in addressing their concerns.

On April 5, 2024, the villagers wrote to the CRSG management to inform them of the damage the blasting of rocks at the quarry crusher was causing to their farmlands and creeks. They noted that the blasting was damaging their homes and polluting their drinking water, a violation of environmental law and their human rights.

The communication prompted the Environment Protection Agency’s local office in Nimba to assess the situation on April 30.

The EPA findings mentioned that during the inspection, a huge pile of mortar was seen dumped by the company, and sediments from the mortar leached into the streams each time it rains. The findings further noted that the blasting of rocks at the quarry emitted dust particles in the air that posed a risk to the villagers’ health. It also noted that the company’s activities polluted an open well from where the villagers fetched drinking water.

In an interview with The Bush Chicken on July 5, Sam Karwoods, a spokesperson for the village, said that the EPA inspection and findings aligned with the villagers’ claims. However, nothing has been done to compel CRSG to comply with environmental standards.

He said on several occasions, he had contacted the local and national offices of the EPA to know when enforcement would begin. However, he has not received any helpful response.

Karwoods said villagers are asking to be relocated and provided safe drinking water. The villagers also want to be compensated for damage to their crops. He said he has already contacted renowned human rights lawyer Tiawan Gongloe to file a lawsuit against the company at the Supreme Court.

“Every time the company carries out [the] blasting, the villagers will have to flee to the bushes because of the particles that the crusher produces,” he said. “Over the last four years of the company’s operation, some of our elderly people have lost their lives because of this same thing.”

He added, “Our people have been told by some environmentalists not to eat the greens and cassava leaves in the village until it rains to avoid problems. Their work has made [the] creeks we have been drinking [from] since the 60s to be polluted, and they can’t allow us to fetch water from their yard. So our first request was for them to provide us [with] safe drinking water.”

Meanwhile, the county head of the EPA in Nimba, Kingston G. David, told The Bush Chicken that findings from the assessment done by the county team had been submitted to the head office of the EPA in Monrovia. The Nimba office was awaiting further instructions before acting.

David said the EPA head office needed to send technicians to conduct scientific studies to establish the pollution level. Until such studies are completed, it is difficult for the EPA to take action against the company.

He asked the villagers to exercise patience, as the study would take some time.

The Ministry of Public Works contracted CRSG to upgrade the 47.1 km long Sanniquellie- Loguatuo Road. The project involves paving, realignment, provision of safety features, and improvement of the drainage system along the road.

Before the commencement of the project, CRSG was required to prepare several studies and management plans to ensure compliance with the environmental and social requirements of the Ministry of Public Works, the EPA, and the African Development Bank.

Featured photo by Ezekiel Makundu/Radio Sehnwaii

Jerry Myers

Jerry T. Myers, Jr. is a student of the Nimba County Community College, studying Natural Resource Management. Since 2008, Jerry has worked in the media sector, including at the Voice of Tappita community radio station, ELBC Radio, Radio Nimba, and New Public Trust Media Group. He is the current secretary-general of the Nimba Community Radio Association and a full member of the Press Union of Liberia.

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