Even the most uninformed farmer in my native Lofa County, planning for the next farming season, has obviously noticed that “something” very serious is wrong with the weather condition. He knows that this “something” is inarguably affecting the farming season with a no-small-blow on agricultural production and income generation. To him, this is just some of the many offshoots of the at least 14 years of civil war that polluted the society which ceased slightly a decade ago. Whether his analysis is right or not, the fact remains clear that climate change is here and that's how the common people of our society are explaining the phenomena and its devastating effects.
It doesn't require an expert to undoubtedly declare that Climate Change is already transforming life on Earth—negatively or positively. No, not at all! Around the globe, seasons are shifting; temperatures are climbing and sea levels are rising. Rainy seasons have extended including in Liberia far beyond normal durations, draught have affected millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world, food productions have dwindled, new diseases have erupted and killed hundreds of thousands of people (rich or poor)—and more is expected to happen. Probably the worst is yet to come.
When I was in grade school almost 20 years ago, Social studies informed me that there are two seasons in Liberia: Rainy and dry. True! No argument. We also learnt that the rainy season ran from mid-May to mid-October. No, this doesn't hold anymore, because even in November when the dust should be spiraling and smoking into the hot sunny skies, it's still raining cats and dogs. As I was writing this piece on November 30, 2012, giant-size rain droplets were hitting the top of the roof with all their might. Of course, people, this is what we call climate change!
According to my research, Climate Change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions, or in the distribution of weather around the average conditions (i.e., more or fewer extreme weather events). We are unquestionably experiencing this here.
Geography informs that Climate Change is caused by factors that include oceanic processes (such as oceanic circulation), variations in solar radiation received by Earth, plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions, and human-induced alterations of the natural world; these latter effects are currently causing global warming, and "climate change" is often used to describe human-specific impacts.
Scientists actively work to understand past and future climate by using observations and theoretical models. Borehole temperature profiles, ice cores, floral and faunal records, glacial and periglacial processes, stable isotope and other sediment analyses, and sea level records serve to provide a climate record that spans the geologic past.
More recent data are provided by the instrumental record. Physically based general circulation models are often used in theoretical approaches to match past climate data, make future projections, and link causes and effects in climate change.
No, this is not a Geography or Geology lesson. The purpose of this article is to explain how Climate Change is seriously affecting the infrastructure development of post war Liberia, road in particular, and the uphill challenges the Ministry of Public Works faces in dealing with the disobedient and cataclysmic phenomenon.
There is almost no day in recent months that has gone (in fact, including today) without segments of the public complaining about the increasing deplorable conditions of roads in the country and how the Ministry of Public Works is doing very little or absolutely nothing, in their words, to address these worsening conditions. If the Ministry is not accused of “failing” to intervene on or complete the construction/reconstruction of a particular segment of road, it is accused of building substandard roads.
In fact, I have observed that it is so easy to report on and criticize deplorable conditions of roads in the media than any other sector of society. The reason is that the impacts of bad roads are glaring, convincing, biting, discouraging and inescapable. It is easy for a journalist like me to snap very damaging segments of roads and gather views from a disenchanting public on them, and that's why you will always hear people complaining how bad the roads are.
The people have to complain. Why? They have to complain because the existence of or driving or traveling on deplorable roads in any society is indeed an incontestable challenge with huge physical and economic consequences. If people are not involved in motor accidents, they will spend many hours on such roads; if the vehicles do not develop faults, goods and services may not be delivered on time; if perishable goods are not spoiled, transport fares will go up to Mount Kilimanjaro. The upshot, then, in many instances, is increased in prices in goods and services across such segment of roads.
I am fully aware that no nation builds and prospers in the absence of roads. Not just roads, but better road networks. Unfortunately, Liberia, in the past, has not really invested in roads. And that is why, for example, you will see on major route cycling the capital and mercilessly worn-out. Since 1847, there should have by now been several roads to enter Monrovia and Sinkor rather than the Freeport-Monrovia-Redlight-Gardnersville-Freeport and the other way around.
Meanwhile, unlike the past 160 years, I believe that more emphasis is now being placed on road construction and rehabilitation in recent years. There is no need to beat around the bush. Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods has done his level best in heading the Ministry of Public Works in addressing the issue, but in the face of huge difficulties: attacks on public infrastructure (theft and destruction), competing priority in government (limited budget) and heavy rainfall and unpredictable weather (Climate Change), among others.
Again, I will not undertake to explain how many public facilities including roads and bridges are being undermined and destroyed by the very Liberians who need them, to explain how the whole country's budget cannot build all the roads needed in one year, and to admit how there are limited human resource capacity which are some of the challenges in the infrastructure sector. I will not also use the little more space left for me to explain how the ministry has successfully build many roads, but will look that the effect of climate change.
Like I stated earlier it doesn't require an expert to undoubtedly declare that Climate Change is already transforming life on Earth—including Liberia, and this has greatly affected our country's road projects.
In the United States and Geneva, where I recently visited, people are experiencing the effect of climate change. In Denmark and Australia, people have been planning how to design new models of road construction in countering the devastating effects of Climate change. Pakistan, China, the US and the Philippines have faced damaging floods and wind storms that have washed away whole cities and roads. In Liberia, we have not reached that internationally recognized devastative level, but we are feeling a considerable impact of climate change.
For instance, 2012 has produced the highest level of rainfall in the last nine years. Even in December, the dusts are year to rise, and this has seriously affected our road rehabilitation. The Chinese construction company (CHICO) paving the Buchanan highway recently described heavy rainfall this year as one of its major challenges, stating that rainfall in 2012 surpassed the last nine years. Briefing Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods Friday (Nov 2) in Grand Bassa County, the CHICO's Site Manger Song Lei said the rainfall served as a major impediment to the company's acceleration of work on the Buchanan road, and on the visit of the Minister, rainfall caused workers to halt their tasks on certain parts of the road to wait for the sun to return and dry the portion before resuming work.
There is no where I have seen where roads can be rehabilitated or paved during heavy down pour. Research has told me that such road will not be guarantee. For instance, before a pavement is done or asphalt is applied on the road, the surface must first be dry. I wonder how that can ever be done in Liberia when it is raining everyday and every night.
Road pavements comprise various layers of materials that act together to provide a defined level of service depending on the traffic volumes and vehicle types. The pavement layers are generally thicker in the lower levels and consist of granular, stabilized, or cementitious materials with granular being the most widely used and economical of these.
Stabilized or bound (concrete, lime, etc) base layers are generally used for higher strength pavements or for specialized applications such as pavements subject to water inundation during construction or frequent wetting and drying cycles. The upper pavement layers can comprise several layers of bituminous materials for heavy-duty pavements or a single thin surface of bitumen for lighter pavements. Concrete pavements are common for long-life, high load/volume arterial roads and specialist applications. Quite obviously, major arterial roads are commonly thicker and use more expensive materials than lower order roads. We can have all of these materials stock pile in a warehouse, when will never use them to build an inch of road as long as it is raining. That's how climate change is affecting our road development, and I think we should also look at the other size before we crucify Minister Woods and his deputies or demonize the Ministry of Public Works for s sin they have not committed.
What we could do as people is to help the Ministry with how to deal with the situation. We should all be reminded that wetter winters and sudden, heavy downpours will reduce the lifespan of unpaved roads and shorten the life span of paved roads, making it even more important to direct rainwater away from houses, paved areas, roads, etc.
Rain, all over the world, remain the biggest risk factor in road construction and maintenance. For existing roads, the risk of more rain poses the greatest challenge. Surface water need to be directed away from roads in order to ensure their durability, avoid aquaplaning and reduced passability for road users. Here, we will dig on the roads and burn tyres there; we will undermine the roads and bridges by removing crushed rocks and sand for sale, but we still want these roads to be intact.
Yes, I do agree one thousand times that the public has the right to talk, to criticize, to express frustration and to call on relevant authorities to take action when the roads are not in good shape. But in doing so, I also hold the view one million times that we should also look at the other side of the coin and be realistic in our criticisms and judgment.
Frankly speaking, removing Kofi Woods and his whole team from Public Works will not stop climate change and the challenges it brings to infrastructure development here and the world over. Look, climate change is here! We must live with it, face it, tackle it and defeat it; else, it will overwhelm us and change the whole world. Yes, Liberia, too. And that's why even the most uninformed farmer in my native Lofa County, planning for the next farming season, has obviously noticed that “something” very serious is wrong with the weather condition. Author's contact: