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Hike in SALWACO water rate…

Kambia residents fetch water from unprotected source

March 20, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai

kambiakambia town

Kambia residents fetching water from a hand-dug-well (left), a girl and a woman carrying water fetched from Kolenten River (right)

Residents of Kambia town have now resorted to fetching water  from the salty and unprotected Kolenten River for domestic use, after the Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO) increased its water rate.

Kolenten River passes through Magbema chiefdom but taste salty during the dries.

One of the residents,Salamatu Turay,told Concord Times that they decided to fetch water from the Kolenten River because they could afford to pay the water   rate demanded  by SALWACO.

“Previously, we used to pay ten thousand Leones (Le10,000) for a whole month to fetch water from the taps  in Kambia. Later, that amount was ignored by the providers of the water. We were then asked to pay five hundred Leones (Le500) for three jerry cans of water. It was going on well until recently when we were asked to pay five hundred Leones (Le500) for only two jerry cans of water,” she explained.

She noted that they can’t afford to pay Le500 for two jerry cans of water because of the prevailing economic hardship in their community.

Zainab Sankoh, another woman that was interviewed while trying to fetch water from a hand-dug well in Kambia town, said they have been fetching water from the well because they could not afford to pay the Le500.

“This water is not pure as compared to the one provided by SALWACO, but we don’t pay a cent fetch water from here. We have resisted and raised our concerns to several authorities in the township including the paramount chief but nothing has been done to address our plight,” she stated.

However, Paramount Chief of Magbema chiefdom, P.C Bai Farma Tass Bubu N’gbak IV, said the water project was funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which provided over eight million United States Dollars (US$8m) to provide water to the people of Kambia town. He disclosed that there were about 100 public taps constructed in the township.

 “When the supply of water started in the town, the members of the water and sanitation board were asking people to pay fifteen thousand Leones (Le15,000) per month and that anyone could fetch as much water as he or she could. But the people resisted paying that amount, saying that it was too much for them. The proceeds from this process were used to pay staff, buy fuel to operate the pumping station and to also buy chemicals to purify the water,” he explained.

He disclosed that for the first two months, they were not realising much, because people refused to pay the rate and instead fetch water elsewhere, adding that the amount of money needed to run the taps was twenty nine million Leones (Le29m) a month.

He said they were only collecting nine million Leones (Le9m) per month, which, he said was not enough to address the problems of the Board.

He recalled that previously, they used to provide water twice a day and that they reversed the said decision because people were resisting to pay for the service.

He noted that they later decided to provide it once after every two days because people were going elsewhere to fetch water.

“SALWACO was subsidising the fuel aspect for us but things became so difficult that they had to stop doing that. During the Ebola period, we were having support from the National Emergency Response Centre (NERC) to provide water to treatment centres and everybody was enjoying the facility. At the moment, we have to take strong decision to ensure that water is frequently supplied to us,” he said.

He added that the board took a decision to demand Le500 for three jerry cans of water after NERC withdrew its support.

 “We decided to reduce the number of jerry cans from three to two for Le500 because of the increase in the pump price of fuel. The tariff is minimal, compared to the sachet of water which also costs Le500. People are still grumbling but we need money to keep the process going,” he said.