Sierra Leone: Water Crisis Threatens Survival in Freetown

Published on, by Roland Marke, June 14, 2009.

In Sierra Leone today, water is perennially scarce. Its insatiable demand has outstripped a stagnated, disrupted supply. In the dusty, thirsty capital city of Freetown, with scourging heat and temperatures reaching extremes, this threatens the people with dehydration and serious health challenges. Still struggling to get back on its feet after a decade-long civil war that ended in 2002, this nation of 6 million has seen a surge in migration in recent years, which has put a strain on already scarce resources, including food, housing, employment, and perhaps most importantly, water …

… Assessing the bigger picture, water experts have advised that the Orogu River at Hastings Village is the answer to the water supply crisis in Freetown. Atkins consulting firm of the U.K., assisted by other local partners, including Oxfam and a local engineering firm 3BMD, studied the water and sanitation problems in Freetown to help craft a long-term solution. Leading consultant of Atkins, Richard Shepard, stressed that with the current population explosion prevalent in the city, compounded with the stride for development, the Orugu Dam is the only lasting solution to the water crisis in the city. The current Guma supply to the city is 83 million liters a day, equivalent to 16 million gallons a day. The Orugu project in the initial stage would provide the city with an additional 75 million liters (12 million gallons) of water per day. 

The studies said that the Orugu scheme came in three stages. As the first phase could provide the city with a total of 28 million gallons per day, the second and third stages could triple that number. 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 government to reintroduce rigid laws on health and sanitation. An official of Guma pinpointed that the current Guma facility could no longer cope with the alarming population explosion in Freetown.

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.” While a foreign critic interjected that corruption is not a native of any land, it finds easier homes in some.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and first African woman to win the prestigious accolade, Kenyan born Wangai Maathai, in a fierce and urgent speech in London, said recently that there is a change taking place. “Nature is still being taken for granted. Yet when it is destroyed, life itself goes. Politicians [everywhere] are putting immediate needs ahead of the long term. We must challenge the decision makers. We must appeal not just to their heads, but to their hearts. I can only see things getting worse if we do nothing,” she emphasized. Sierra Leone and the rest of the world need to heed Maathai’s passionate appeal. (full long text).

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