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Deforestation, encroachment pose challenge to water supply

November 10, 2020

By Jariatu S. Bangura

GUMA dam at mile 13

The Director General of Guma Valley Water Company,Ing. Maada Kpenge, has informed Members of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Water Resources that, encroachment of land and deforestation continue to pose a big challenge to adequate water supply.

 “A lot of damage has been done to the facilities and private buildings have been erected there. Deforestation and encroachment are the greatest challenges for us, and if not handled immediately, we will have to lose many reservations. We need enough land space to build another reservoir and if not taken into consideration, we will continue to have shortages of water,” he said.

He said the encroached lands were asset given to GUMA by an Act of Parliament from FCC under the Freetown works.

The committee visited the Guma Dam at Mile 13,Tower Hill facility and Kissy Pipe Yard where over 150 containers containing pipes, fittings and braithwaite tanks materials are located for the Freetown Water Supply Rehabilitation Project (FERP) funded by the Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (formerly DFID).

Ing. Kpenge said the DFID project is currently on hold due to the Covid 19, but disclosed that Guma has taken possession of the pipes to be used on laying submains in various communities across Freetown.

 He said the materials will replace the numerous spaghetti pipes and reduce the many leakages in the city.

He said communities that do not have water will be provided with, whilst those that already have the infrastructure, the service will improve them.

“This project should have started far before the covid-19, but the contractor who is in the UK had to ask DFID for twelve months suspension, which was granted,” he said.

Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Mark Mahmoud Kaloko, appealed that the MD makes way for the National Fire Force to have access to water especially where they have fire hydrant, in order to help save surrounding communities in the eastern part of the municipality.

“We would be glad to see this project start within the shortest possible time. I urge Guma to talk with the sponsors (DFID)-to reconsider their position and start the in-house connections work. President Bio has made emphatic effort to begin the project,” he said.

But the MD said they have been collaborating with the National Fire officers for a while now and expressed hope to continue the good relationship.

“We have to ration the water supply for both the east and west part of the country. We only got some challenge to supply deprived communities. We have suggested that all fire hydrants have storage of water to help ease the stress of not having enough water to save the affected community. We have conveyed a meeting with DFID in order for the local contractors to start their work before their resumption and we have agreed to start up the work locally,” he said.

Hon. Kalokoh said 30 years back the population was not like as it is now, hence there was need to find ways to address the current situation.

He urged officials of Guma to ensure the commercial desk department be more proactive, robust and effective in addressing the huge demand of the citizenry.

He explained that the Freetown Emergency Project is a rehabilitation project which will not be enough to supply the huge demand.

“We are trying to reduce the leakages to have sufficient water supply to the people.”

Chief Engineer at the Babadorie treatment centre Regent, Prince Moore-Sourie, said due to the breakages caused by the mudslide, World Bank decided to sponsor Freetown emergency project to address the challenges, thus noting that the pipes are already available waiting for work to commence.

He stated that they will be rehabilitating some areas that have water challenges, adding that the project could have started last week but the late payment to affected households caused the delay.

He assured the committee that by Thursday (November 12), payments shall have been completed and work will soon kick off.

He added that encroachment and deforestation of water catchment areas were also posing a serious challenge for GUMA.

The Chief Engineer made allusion to Sugar Loaf and Kongo water catchments which have been encroached.

He said this situation has posed a threat for water supply to Regent, Gloucester, Leicester and the surrounding communities.

He further stated that under the FERP, the Babadorie Treatment Plant will be rehabilitated by replacing Pumps, Filters, Generators and a construction of new Sand Washing Bay by Pavi Fort.

He disclosed that HDF would lay a 2.4 kilometers pipe to improve on water supply in the Mortomeh, Kaningo and Hill Station communities.

However, Chairman of the Water Resources Committee, Hon. Lahai Marrah, underscored the importance of the visit, stating that the role of the Committee is to provide oversight on MDAs’ activities in the water sector. 

“Guma has been doing a lot recently in terms of improving water supply to Freetown. We know there are challenges and that is why the Committee has moved to get first-hand information about the company’s operation,” Hon. Lahai Marrah asserted.

Hon. Lahai called on the government to preserve and protect the water catchment areas for sustainable and quality water supply to Freetown.

He said the government did set up a committee to look into the challenges faced by the water sector, thus urging his colleagues to come out with a report within the shortest possible time.

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