Massive rural-urban migration into Freetown [pop. 1.2 million] is putting pressure on the city’s capacity to provide clean, safe drinking water for all its residents, writes Roland Bankole Marke. In a country whose infrastructure is ‘obsolete’ and nearing ‘breaking point’, Marke calls for the nation to make an overhaul of its structural water supply system its ‘top priority’. At present water shortages leave the city vulnerable to outbreaks of disease, while the poorest cannot afford water sold privately. Solutions discussed by Marke include organisation at community level to raise funds for securing water provision, and the construction of a dam on the Orugu River.
“Essential service hubs as Connaught Hospital, Princess Christian Hospital and local food markets in the heart of Freetown, experience acute water shortage”. .
“Those employed go to work with containers trying to fetch water. People who can afford it have installed water tanks, and for a bargain they could get regular water supply from fire trucks operated by employees of the nation’s Fire Force Brigade. It is not uncommon for duels between employees of Guma Water Company and Fire Force workers to spark up fracas or infrequent death may result”.
“[T]he digging of water wells is taking place in various communities around the country with support from some elected leaders. From Wilberforce on the west, onto Kissy Road in the east, wells are popping up all around Freetown, mostly in densely populated areas”.
A unique and telling case study is ‘Mojabi Cave Well’ at New England Ville built about 50 years ago, that now services some 6,000 people. [...] Youths in this area have [formed] the ‘Water of Life’ organisation [to collect] donations from residents and well-wishers to fund the refurbishing of the well that had become a death trap”.
“On 18 April 2009,17 year-old Aminata Kamara, a student of Wallace Johnson Memorial School, went to the only well in the area to fetch water for domestic use. [...] While she was collecting water, a huge boulder rolled down and crushed her, killing her. [...] On the hilltop, trees were being cut down to erect new buildings or for use as fire wood. Soil erosion or landslide could have caused the stone to fall down”.
“Atkins consulting firm of the UK, assisted by other local partners including Oxfam and a local engineering firm 3BMD, studied the water and sanitation problems in Freetown [and stressed that] the Orugu Dam is the only lasting solution to the water crisis in the city”.
“Douglas Hunt, another Atkins consultant, appealed to the government to halt all developmental activities within the catchments perimeter. On the sanitation problem, Jonathan Parkinson and others solicited the government to reintroduce rigid laws on health and sanitation”.
“The minister of lands, country planning and the environment, Dr. Dennis Sandy, while addressing a session of Parliament recently said, ‘I’m willing and ready to expose with evidence to substantiate my point that some parliamentarians in the Western Area are indeed involved in illegal land transactions.’
Source: Roland Bankole Marke, Pambazuka News, 18 June 2009