As Illegal Burials Overwhelm JCN Howard And Du-Port Road Cemeteries: PCC Fails To Close Cemeteries, Maintain Them?
John K. Moneh, a resident of Du-Port Road Intersection’s Cemetery, wished to end sleepless nights, see his children healthy and breathe fresh air—if the Paynesville City Corporation (PCC) or the government fences the filled cemetery so that it avoids illegal burial, criminal hideouts and pollution.
“Every Decoration Day families have fistfight over graves here because people rebury on other family members’ graves. We can see wrapped-up bodies in cars day and night coming to the cemetery for illegal burial. Zogos [street thugs] live in the graves, snatching people’s phones and running in the gray yard; if you talk, they can harm,” Moneh said, pointing his finger at the filled cemetery with a grim face. “PCC can see the grave, how filthy it is, but it can’t say anything. Government should fence this area and lock it out or demolish it and relocate it because it is in the city.
“Our children here are protected by God, because their health is at risk,” he added.
Viewing the Du-Port Road Cemetery, graves are constructed over each other due to the lack of burying space. Street thugs and some residents turned the cemetery into a dumpsite, making it a breeding ground for roaches, flies, rats and maggots that creep in residences. Wells adjacent the cemetery are a major source of water for residents, especially for babies and school-going children.
“We are just living by the grace of God because the water is not safe and pollution can make people sick. Our kids suffer from malaria, roaches and rats,” Moneh said.
According to research, the decomposition of bodies can pass through the soil and into underground water, and studies have shown that these chemicals may cause environmental contamination and underground water pollution over time.
The Paynesville City Corporation (PCC) is aware of this but discusses the situation with laxity, according residents. Since the second Wednesday in March, which was Decoration Day, garbage collected from the Voker Mission JCN Howard and Du-Port Road cemeteries have been stockpiled on the street corners of Paynesville.
Last year, authorities of PCC shutdown both cemeteries to the public after residents complained of the deplorable state and limited space, causing a serious health hazard in both communities.
On August 10, 2022, the PCC said in a press release that it was informed about the prevailing situation at the JCN Howard Cemetery and shut it down immediately.
“The Paynesville City Corporation (PCC) notifies the public that the JCN Howard, Voker Mission and Du-Port Road cemeteries are closed to new burial due to lack of space at these cemeteries,” Jeremiah K. Diggen said with conviction. “Absolutely, there will be no new burial at both the Du-Port Road and JCN Howard cemeteries. Anyone caught will be penalized.”
The closure of both cemeteries by the PCC was a gimmick to get public attention, as the decree is a toothless bulldog, according to residents of both cemeteries.
At JCN Howard Cemetery, Saturday burial is imminent, likewise Du-Port Road, leaving residents frustrated as if PCC has not disqualified the area for new burial.
The situation has fueled resentment in the community, with citizens pointing accusing finger at PCC for undermining its decree and getting a share of the illegal burial fees from lawless individuals of both cemeteries.
In continuation, the angry residents told the Hot Pepper that since PCC shut down both cemeteries it has abandoned them in terms of assigning security guard, as well as not providing regulation and maintenance.
“People are still burying at the JCN Howard Cemetery in Voker Mission. PCC does not assign any security here. Even the dirt they took from the graves during Decoration Day is still on the streets. The place is filled and polluted,” a Voker Mission’s resident, who begged for anonymity, said in a vociferated tone.
The United Nations Environment Program, which provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life with compromising that of future generations, prohibits cemetery pollution.
The JCN Howard Cemetery at Voker Mission was closed last year as a result of morticians of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, the largest referral hospital, who offloaded the bags of bodies and illegally buried there, which cause serious hazard.
The situation compelled Chief Medical Officer of the hospital, Dr. Jerry Brown, to apologize. “All pieces of evidence showed the burial was done by the hospital,” he said.
When contacted about the prevailing situation at both cemeteries, the PCC’s Public Relation, Jeremiah K. Diggen, said journalists should not live by public perception, but must be ethical.
“The people are alleging; don’t consider it. They said PCC did not provide security?” he asked. “Call me 10:30 a.m.” However, his phone was off at 10:30 a.m. and up to 11:00 a.m.
Health risk living near a cemetery is caused by decomposition of inhumed bodies, which results in leachates, typically comprised of water, protein, fat, mineral salts, and carbohydrates, plus potential microbial pathogens.
The residents of both cemeteries called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is the regulatory institution of the Government of Liberia (GOL) for the sustainable management of the environment and its natural resources, to fence both cemeteries and totally avoid new burying.