By Alhaji Haruna Sani
It exactly four years since President Bio was sworn in as President of the republic of Sierra Leone in April 4, 2018. During his campaigns in 2018, Bio and his Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) party made a flamboyant manifesto promise of increasing access to water supply through efficient water management.
The SLPP made those promises because access to water was a major problem in the country. They also stated in their manifesto that access to safe drinking water was more a human right by then than ever before. They quoted UNICEF and WHO to have determined that improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation promotes good health and reduces mortality rates.
On the day of his inauguration, on Saturday 12th May 2018, President Bio promised Sierra Leoneans that the strategic objective of the policies and programs outlined in their New Direction agenda is to change and transform Sierra Leone into a country that all citizens can be proud of.
They also state in their manifesto that the Guma Valley Water Company continues to face management challenges because corruption rife resulting in the granting of contracts to party cronies.
“In the new direction government, a comprehensive water and sanitation strategic plan will be put in place to guide investment in the sector and public sector investment will be increased to a minimum of 10% from its current level of less than 3%”.
The SLPP also promised constructing a new water reservoir for Freetown and its immediate environs, construct boreholes and gravity water supply facilities in hard to reach peri-urban areas in Western Area, rehabilitate water distribution network in Freetown and construct stand pipes in deprived communities
Among others, they also promised to strengthen the maintenance culture and capacity of Guma Valley Water Company, rain water harvesting all over the country, construct boreholes, gravity water systems and solar water pumping schemes attached to shallow water wells in all villages.
Four years under the Bio administration, there is yet any massive transformation in the water sector. There is still only one dam in Freetown which is currently operational and grossly inadequate to meet the demand of a growing population. More houses have illegally been constructed around the catchment area causing threat to the dam.
The problem of adequate and clean water supply in Freetown is still a perennial problem.
Instead of a development transformation under the leadership of the SLPP, there was a whopping 300% increment in mid last year (from Le2.50cent to Le 750 per litre), on water tariff for public places, which according to them aimed at generating more revenue so that they can effectively run the Guma Water Company.
The last time the company made increment was in 2006, which was about 100% (from Le1.50% to 2.50cent per litre).
Ali Kabba, Director of Communications at the Guma Valley Water Company early told this medium that Freetown presently needs approximately 245 cubic metres of water which is approximately 245 Million litres on daily basis. He said Guma only have capacity to produce about 75Million litres (45 cubic metres) of water per day, which means the city needs 3 times or more than the company is supplying.
He affirmed that Guma does not have the capacity to solve the problem of water in Freetown, maintaining that government as an entity can only help reduce the water crisis. He said since 1985 when Guma conducted feasibility study to construct Orugu Dam in the Western Rural of Freetown, respective governments have turn blind eye on the project.
“Study known as the Freetown Water Supply and Sanitation master plan has revealed that construction of the Orugu dam would now coast about $100 Million because of the massive construction done around the location which I believe government cannot venture any longer,” he challenged.
He emphasized that Guma is not receiving any subvention from government and that budget allocation for the Ministry of Water Resources is below one percent, and even that which is allocated is hardly provided in full,” he maintained.
He added that the Guma Valley Water Company has submitted so many proposals to government and almost all have been neglected. He however confirmed that last year government procured about 13 water bowsers for the company.
“We have been running Guma at a loss. We were technically subsidizing for most of our customers, especially those around hilltop areas where we have to use electricity to pump water.There are no tax or duty waver on chemicals imported by Guma and a lot of our items will perish when funds are not available to clear them at the water Quay,” he said.
He acknowledged the issue of leakages which has a huge risk of contaminating pipe born water, but cried that the company has not been fully capacitated with funds and manpower to fight the menace.
He said the Freetown Water Supply and Sanitation Plan 2020 to 2050 (30 years window); a $2million project which was funded by African Development Bank has indicated that there are enough water sources from Freetown peripheries of No.2 river, John Obay, Waterloo, York Kent, to supply the City. But, the project he said will cost about 1$Billion, which seems to be a flying pig.
Despite claims by officials of the SLPP that they have achieved over 90% of their manifesto promises, the water crisis in Freetown still remains unabated. Interviewed with the Guma valley public relations department has implied that the SLPP has achieved little or nothing in its manifesto promise of salvaging water crises in Freetown
According to the United Nations report on global water crisis and climate change, globally, the U.N. report found that 25% of all cities are already experiencing regular water shortages. Over the past two decades, it said the planet’s combined supplies of surface water, ground water and water found in soil, snow and ice have declined by 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) per year, and population growth will further strain water supplies, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite some progress in recent years, the report established that based on current rates of advancement, 107 countries would not meet goals to sustainably manage water supplies and access by 2030. The number of people with inadequate access to water is expected to rise to more than 5Billion by 2050 up from 3.6Billion in 2018.
Sinneh Dumbuya, local chief of Smart Farm community,Off Wilkinson Road had informed this medium that he spends about Le 55,000 every week to buy sachet water bundles for drinking.
He said to access water for domestic use, his wife and children cover about 400 to 500 metres to a borehole at Carlton Carew drive where they pay Le 500 for a Jerry can of water which is not pure for drinking.
Chief Sinneh said they get their only source of drinking water through a Mila Tank which supplies the entire Smart Farm, Boston and Quarry communities. “The tank was provided by Councilor Mamoud T.K Simbo through government of Sierra Leone about a year ago”, he said.
The local chief maintained that residents pay Le 1,000 for a single gerrycan of water from the tank provided by government. He said Guma Valley Water Company bowsers refill the tank once, twice and occasionally three times per week. He disclosed that each supply from Guma coast Le 150,000.
He concluded that there has never been any roundtable discussion with any stakeholder about the worrisome situation of water in the community.
Thomas Bangura, resident of Sorie town community said the entire community has only one bore whole which get dried during dry seasons. He said women and children spend almost the whole nights in search of water from a natural source which get dried during the dry seasons.
Thomas added that the water crisis is long-standing in the community and that no one seems to care about it. He revealed that since President Bio took up office in 2018 there has been no improvement in the water sector especially in their community. He expressed dissatisfaction over government neglect in salvaging the water crisis in the community.
Residents from different areas of Freetown expressed dissatisfaction and frustration over the challenges they go through and the way the problem is overlooked by government.
It seems as if the colourful promises to salvage the water problem in the country have been mere lip-services by the Bio-led administration. For the past four years, there has been an overall poor leadership and incompetent individuals appointed to manage some key sectors like water supply under the Bio-led administration.