By Millicent Senava Mannah
The Resilient Urban Sierra Leone Project (RUSLP) in association with SWS Consulting Engineering, Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC), and HR Wallingford as sub-consultant in partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone and other organizations, on Thursday, August 3rd, 2023, hosted a stakeholders’ workshop at the New Freetown City Council Hall on the theme: “Development of a Strategic Flood Risk Assessment and Management Plan for Secondary Cities in Sierra Leone”
The workshop brought together policymakers from seven cities in Sierra Leone, namely Bo, Makeni, Bonthe, Kenema, Koidu New Sembehun, Port Loko, and Waterloo. Key officials from the Ministry of Land, Housing & Country Planning, the Ministry of Works & Public Assets, and the Ministry of Water Resources & Sanitation, along with representatives from national and international agencies, participated in the event.
The primary goal of the workshop was to foster knowledge exchange and share best practices, ensuring participants gained a comprehensive understanding of developing a Strategic Flood Risk Assessment and Management Plan for Secondary Cities, while providing the groundwork for effective action.
The RUSLP stakeholders workshop hosted discussions with policymakers representing seven cities in Sierra Leone. The participants included key officials from the Ministry of Land, Housing & Country Planning, the Ministry of Works & Public Assets, and the Ministry of Water Resources & Sanitation. Additionally, national and international agencies were also present at the workshop.
The project, implemented by A.R.S. Progetti, in collaboration with SWS Consulting Engineering, Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC), and HR Wallingford as a sub-consultant, aims to support the Government of Sierra Leone and Local Authorities in planning and constructing more resilient and sustainable cities.
Bringing stakeholders together, the workshop was geared towards exchanging knowledge as well as share experiences of best practices and to ensure that participants have thorough understanding of the development of a Strategic Flood Risk Assessment and Management Plan for Secondary Cities as well as to provide the basis for action.
According to the Executive Director of SLURC, Joseph McCarthy the overall objective of the project is to provide a solid baseline of flood risk information and data in order to support the Government of Sierra Leone as well as Local Authorities to plan and build more resilient and sustainable cities.
“The assignment was to develop flood risk assessments and flood risk management plans for secondary cities namely Makeni, Kenema, Bo, Koidu New Sembehun, Waterloo, Port Loko and Bonthe,” he stated
He continued by stating how flooding is a key challenge in the country and how it poses a lot of threats not only to Freetown but to secondary cities also.
“We are all aware of the damage it causes to life and properties being one of the critical issues that the Government and other foreign agencies, especially the World Bank, has been very much concerned about,” he furthered.
He revealed how they have been really trying to push for concrete understanding of the project and also to know the kind of actions to undertake.
McCarthy said the workshop will provide participants a unique opportunity to really come together to exchange knowledge but to also experience the kinds of best practices to really put together in order to ensure that they have concrete understanding, and how it will also provide the basis for action, especially by the various organizations that have responsibility to undertake such actions.
“It is really not just about sharing experience and expertise but it is also about how we identify ways to better equip our cities especially the secondary cities that are the focus of the study so as to face the challenges now and in the future, especially now when urbanization is becoming a major threat and climate change is also really threatening as well,” Dr. McCarthy informed.
On his part, Mohamed Wuroh Timbo M&E Specialist for RUSLP stated that in the long term, the project aims to strengthen institutional and financial capacity of the cities and develop appropriate urban planning tools and instruments to enable the country to fully capture urbanization.
“We adopt a multi-disciplinary approach that integrates technical engineering aspects with climatic, socio-cultural, economic and environmental aspects, previous expertise in similar assignments, strong local knowledge and reputation, as well as central ethos to help and improve the lives and capacities of the local population,” he said.
One of the key outcomes of the workshop was the establishment of a comprehensive baseline of flood risk information and data for secondary cities in Sierra Leone, including Bo, Makeni, Bonthe, Kenema, Koidu New Sembehun, Port Loko, and Waterloo. This crucial information will play a vital role in shaping flood risk management plans for these cities.
The Resilient Urban Sierra Leone Project takes a multi-disciplinary approach, integrating technical engineering aspects with considerations for climate, socio-cultural factors, economics, and the environment. The project also draws upon the expertise of various stakeholders, incorporating strong local knowledge and reputation, with the central ethos of improving the lives and capacities of the local population.
Activities carried out as part of the project include data collection and review, stakeholder consultations, acquisition of high-resolution imagery and Digital Terrain Models (DTMs), hydrological and climate change analysis, flood hazard modeling, exposure and vulnerability analysis for each city, flood risk assessment and mapping, GIS database implementation, a web-based flood risk management tool, flood risk management plans, and training and capacity building.
A crucial element of the project involves acquiring high-resolution imagery and DTMs through a LiDAR survey, wherein a plane equipped with laser technology flies over the targeted cities to capture imagery and terrain data.
The stakeholder workshop was attended by urban actors from relevant Ministries and Government agencies, including representatives from the Ministry of Lands, Housing, Country Planning and the Environment (MLHCP), Ministry of Water Resources (MWPA), Ministry of Energy and Climate Change (MECC), Ministry of Works and Rural Development (MWRS), and the Ministry of Finance (MOF).
Additionally, representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Protected Areas Authority (NPAA), Sierra Leone Meteorological Department (SL Met), National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA), and the National Water Resources Management Agency (NWRMA) were also present.
Several international non-governmental organizations (I/NGOs) such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and CARE Sierra Leone were among the attendees.
The engagement with such a diverse range of stakeholders and their valuable knowledge and experience have laid the groundwork for strengthening relationships, incorporating local perspectives into the flood risk management plan, and propelling the project forward.
About the project partners, the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC) was established to increase knowledge about informal settlements and urban issues in Sierra Leone. Through policy-oriented research in areas like Land and Housing, Urban Health, Vulnerabilities and Resilience, Livelihoods and City Economy, Urban Transport and Mobility, and Urban Infrastructure and Services, SLURC actively contributes to the implementation of the transformative commitments of SDG 11 and the New Urban Agenda.
A.R.S. Progetti is a global consulting firm and think-tank that focuses on developing contextually relevant, innovative, and sustainable solutions to complex problems. With a track record of collaborating with international donors, the firm has been involved in various projects addressing human, social, and physical infrastructure development, as well as environmental and cultural heritage conservation.
SWS Consulting Engineering, founded in 1985, specializes in sector studies, design activities, and project management, primarily focusing on urban and rural infrastructures related to water, transportation, energy, and the environment.
Overall, the Resilient Urban Sierra Leone Project marks a significant step forward in building more resilient and sustainable cities in Sierra Leone, helping the Government and local authorities prepare for and manage flood risks effectively.