As we scoop from a crack water reservoir
Water scarcity the Order of the Day
By Mustapha Sesay
How long will the city of Freetown continue to depend on a dying water reservoir to provide clean and affordable water for over one million of its inhabitants that are living in deprived communities in various parts of the city.
Every year at the peak of the dry season, access to pure and affordable water, is a very serious problem that authorities at the Water Ministry and the Guma Valley Water Company have not been able to address despite the erection of water tanks in various parts of the city and the setting up of a commission to regulate the supply and distribution of water in the country.
One major reason for this is that as a result of man’s activities, the ecosystem and the biodiversity in the Freetown Peninsular are vanishing at an alarming rate. This is mainly due to the uncontrolled and uncoordinated human activities in the Peninsular. Such activities include the use of the power saw machines for the cutting of trees and other vegetation around the demarcated forest reserves. the burning of wood for charcoal, construction of dwelling places, illegal sale of land, and mining construction at quarries by multi national companies
With this water crisis, children and women continue to bear the brunt associated with fetching water from one part of the city to the next. At the points where few available tapes are running, people cluster in long lines waiting for hours or throughout the nights to secure gallons of water for domestic consumption. It is like keeping a vigil throughout the night as some of these places are so congested that some would hang around these places while others would be busy forcing their way to acquire water. This to many has a lot to do with the spreading of various diseases more so the Ebola Virus diseases as people in their quest to force their way into the crowd have no option but to have bodily contact.
The peak of the dry season is a crucial moment for Sierra Leoneans to trek for water as the hot burning sun is responsible for excessive consumption or use of water in the homes. This inability of the stakeholders to ensure that the population have access to clean and affordable water at this time has exposed the dying water reservoir that we still depend on rather than finding alternative dams outside the city of Freetown as there is massive construction of dwellings places at the Guma Valley catchment and Babadorie reservoir thereby exposing the pipes to adverse conditions. The Babadorie Reservoir is far below the water level as the Sugar Loaf Water Reserve is dried up and cannot supply water to the dam.
It is a year now since I made a tour of the various water dams and the Guma Valley water system that provides water to the city.
During my visitation, it was heart bleeding to see the deplorable nature of our dams and water system that is not only polluted by the burning of the forest around these areas and the rubbish contaminating the water but also the massive encroachment of the land around these areas resulting in deforestation and rapid evaporation of the water from the dams.
It is unfortunate that majority of the inhabitants of the city cannot make it to some of these places where these dried up dams are to see for themselves so that they have an insight of where the city is heading if immediate measures are not put in place now to ensure that we are talk with one voice of addressing the trouble as the ecosystem and the biodiversity in the Freetown Peninsular are vanishing at an alarming rate. .
Many a time, people are been busy talking about the construction of a new dam. That one is in place but with investigation conducted, one can state that although it is a proposed site, there is already encroachment of this place and most of those involved are not the poor and marginalized but the wealth who have the influence to have their way in everything.
The issue of digging bore holes in the city must be given a lot of consideration as there is the possibility of doing so closer to pit toilets. The city is so congested with poor sewage facilities even in the heart of the city where there are reports of sewage overflowing the streets.
Speaking with some stakeholders about these controlled and unresolved problems, the same old stories are narrated like, operating old dams, cutting of pipes, increase in the population, encroachment of land around the catchment areas and a host of others but the actual solution is still unresolved.
We are aware that water is life and a natural gift. There is the need for measures to be put in place to protect and improve on the water supply system.
Awareness should be raised to stop the encroachment on the catchment areas and ensure and those found wanting must be punished and property sized so as to discourage others.
If Freetown is to address the issue of water scarcity, we must now be thinking on new dams outside the city of Freetown.