By Amin Kef (Ranger)
It is no secret that the capital city of Sierra Leone, Freetown, is in dire need of transformation. The reality is that Freetown has been administered by various Mayors at different times in the history of this country.
Be that as it may, there are now different candidates from various political parties and some independent candidates vying for the position of Mayor of Freetown.
Therefore, Freetonians must be well informed about the plans and promises being put forward by the various Mayoral candidates as to what they will actually do in the event any one of them is elected Mayor of Freetown.
It is against this background that the seemingly most popular and leading Freetown Mayoral candidate, Mohamed Gento Kamara, is not making his dream, aspirations and wishes for the transformation of Freetown a secret.
He has come out to explicitly state that when he is elected Mayor of Freetown, he will address the challenges in the water ecosystem in Freetown (problems of water shortage, storage and distribution).
Gento further states that he will lead the Freetown City Council (FCC) to work with all stakeholders to significantly increase access to safe drinking water from its abysmally low 30%.
In the same vein, he adds that it is clear that the Guma Valley Dam around River No 2 area can no longer meet the needs of the city’s residents. And therefore, he believes that it is important to make good use of our topographical surroundings.
According to him, almost all areas of Freetown have a mountain at the top; this natural resource should be harnessed with water catchments for the benefit of Freetonians. He promises to pursue certain town planning concepts and work collaboratively to aggressively enhance and protect these catchment areas, and where the need arises, he will construct mini-dams with a pipe connection running downstream, in order to create a grid that has natural velocity and can supply water direct to houses.
Through collaboration with the Ministry of Lands, Gento says that the Freetown City Council will ensure that new requests for building permits will consider the environmental impact of projects prior to approval because this will help preserve forest reserve areas around the existing dams and gravity schemes that will ultimately enhance the capacity of dams to store and provide more water
It is a fact that Freetown boasts of high rainfall levels, several water catchment areas, and a long coast-line. These blessings of nature should make it easy for all one million plus residents of Freetown to have access to potable water.
However, this has not been the experience for most Freetonains, as access to safe drinking water is estimated at less than 30% of households in the city.
According to Guma Valley Water Company, the demand for pipe borne water in Freetown is 30-35 million gallons a day while the production is only 16.5 million gallons a day. This situation is compounded by the frequent cutting of water pipes by residents who do not have their own water, leading to an estimated loss of 4 million gallons a day. In the densely populated areas where access to pipe borne water is very limited, residents resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms to access water. For example, they may fetch water from dirty and unprotected wells and streams causing an increase in water borne diseases like typhoid, dysentery, and cholera.
In most instances young children have to go miles from home and queue to fetch water in 20 litre containers for their families. These problems are exacerbated by prolonged dry spells and flash floods of an increasing frequency and intensity.
To salvage the above crisis situation, Gento states that he will install sub mains water pipes in areas that already have direct access to pipe borne water. This will reduce the leakages and wastage of water significantly.
Meters will be installed in every household to ensure that the services are paid for on a regular basis. This additional revenue collection will enable continuity of services; and incentivizing and supporting residents to harvest rainwater. During heavy rainstorms, households should be empowered and trained to collect run-off from structures and other impervious surfaces in order to store it for later use.
Need we say more?