Liberia: Rights Groups Seeks EPA’s Intervention in Mafra River Pollution, Says It’s Affecting Women and Girls

Monrovia — Liberia’s quest for a revamped economy after 14 years of civil war launched an economic reconstruction strategy. This included the exploration of its rich mineral deposits including iron ore, gold, and diamonds. Unfortunately, this came with cost to communities’ health, environmental, social, and political rights.

In a statement signed by Cllr. Margaret M. Nigba, Human Right Defender two civil society organizations said they consider the recent incident with multinational corporation, Bea Mountain Mining Corporation (BMMC), whose activities resulted in a chemical spill of cyanide into the Mafa River – the only water source of 10 communities in the region. This has a detrimental impact including cutting off the basic human right of access to clean and safe water.

This lack of water and sanitation is affecting households as women and girls are unable to cook for their families – as is their expected gender role and responsibility in rural Liberia. This results in domestic violence as they are unable to meet their family duties.

Additionally, due to the lack of sanitation, women and girls are forced to engage in exploitative activities to keep clean during their menses, plunging an already vulnerable constituency into menstrual poverty.

The chemical pollution is also causing environmental degradation including the deaths of aquatic species. All these have a direct correlation with disruptions reproductive, maternal, child and adolescent health which will negatively impact the country’s morbidity and mortality rates. Moreso, income generating activities of women are also disrupted, forcing them to revert to economic dependency on their partners, which often perpetuates the vicious cycles of abuse and poverty.

The actions of the BMMC amount to violations of Article 16.2 and Article 25.1, of the Concession Agreement on Environmental Protections and Water Use both seeking reasonable preventative, corrective measures to limit pollution or contamination of streams, water bodies, and dry land surfaces and not to deprive any person of constant and reasonable supply of use of water from the utilized traditional source without replacing it, respectively, not to mention international and national legal instruments.

Human rights organizations, Her Voice Liberia; and the African Platform for Human Rights and Governance, therefore strongly condemn these actions and call on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to hold the BMMC and other multinational companies that are engaging in similar exploitative extractive activities to the highest standard of the law.

The Civil society originations say they are reminding the EPA that national and international law that Liberia is a party to, on human rights, is in fact legally binding and not suggestive.

According to the organizations, the EPA’s response to the crisis that pleaded with the offending BMMC to right their wrongs is inadequate.

The Civil Society organizations said they are therefore calling on all actors and duty bearers to take full, comprehensive, and inclusive responsibility such as undertaking practical responses to Gender-based violence and sexual reproductive Health & Rights for women in concession agreements through collaborative efforts.

They are calling on the Executive and Legislative to review all concession agreements and amend them to become gender sensitive with the objective of compelling concessionaires to set up SRHR and SGBV emergency humanitarian response mechanisms in their concession areas for women during health or environmental crises.

Further, the groups said that calling on duty bearers to act rightly and restore the rights and dignity of the women in the affected communities by providing relief items including Sexual Reproductive goods and services urgently.

ABOUT HER VOICE & AFRICAN PLATFORM: Her Voice Liberia is a women-led organization that provides free legal services to women and girls in marginalized and underserved communities in rural areas. African Platform for Human rights is a human rights organization that advocates for Legislative review and reforms in Liberia.

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