By Diana Coker
The 6th World Water Forum will take place in Marseille, France on the 12 – 17 March 2012. This is the world largest meeting around the issue of water. The goal of the forum is to tackle the challenges our world is facing and bring water high on the political agenda.
One year ago at the United Nations, 189 states agreed that the right to water everywhere on the planet, for all and everyone must be guaranteed and implemented. Nearly two years ago experts in water and sanitation issues AITKINS UK advised the Sierra Leone government to reconsider an adjustment on the tariff of water to meet current economic trend.
Since 2006, a gallon of portable water produced by Guma Valley Water Company for domestic consumer cost Le 1.30 cent ($ 0.25) and that of commercial consumers is Le13.000 equivalent to $4, these rates have been classified as the cheapest in the world.
Notwithstanding, the low tariff, Sierra Leone is still striving to implement the right to water, the in availability and inaccessibility of clean drinking water is still a problem posing huge challenges to the main service provider of portable water in the city. To get the facts together, investigation carried out clearly proves that currently the main source of supply, the Guma Dam at mile 91 produces at its maximum 16.5 million gallons of water per day.
There is growth in population increase in the city for the past 10 -13 years thus leading to newly developed communities that are yet to access safe drinking water. The challenges the company faces are numerous mostly ranging from the authorised interference on the system (e.g. cutting of pipes, valve regulation by non Guma workers deforestation of smaller water sources leading to pollution, wide spread illegal connection and failure to pay bills by consumers. According to a worker, who prefers anonymity for obvious reasons, most of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies owe the company huge amount of monies and therefore they could not address some technical related problems and increase water supply to unserved areas.
Furthermore, investigations so far have proven that the Guma Valley Water Company does not benefit from government subvention like the case of the National Power Authority about 83 thousand dollars is spent quarterly for the purchasing of chemicals (chlorine, lime and alum). The cost of running the company is so high that there is urgent need for additional assistance from both government and other international financial institutions to kick start the much trumpeted Orugu Dam in the east of Freetown.
The development of a second dam must be given serious consideration to address the water crisis. As both Parliamentary and Presidential elections are fast approaching, it is hoped that politicians place water, sanitation and hygiene issues at the heart of the country’s development agenda, they must ensure that policies are translated into real actions that will directly impact on the lives of the poor and marginalized, who are faced with the daily dilemma of inaccessibility to safe drinking water and affordable sanitation in their communities and to also attract more companies to invest in the country. Water is life.