Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 July 2020:
Social media is awash with videos of several communities, roads and valleys inundated by heavy rains in Freetown, threatening to trigger serious flooding and possible mudslide, reminiscent of the 2017 mudlslide disaster that took the lives of over a thousand people, mostly children and the elderly.
As the city continues to be pelted by heavy rains, government ministers from across various ministries including Water Resources, Lands and Country Planning, Environment, Local Government, and Defence, along with other government officials will conduct an assessment tour of the Western Area Rural District of Freetown tomorrow, Thursday 16 July to evaluate the level of encroachment on protected areas, especially critical areas hosting the city’s water catchments, and to produce mitigating strategy for the protected areas.
Yesterday, the Freetown City Council (FCC) called on residents, especially those who are living in communities prone to flooding to remain alert as heavy rain is forecasted over the next three days.
Residents living in lowlands and flood plains along the coast of Freetown have been advised by the council to be vigilant, especially at nights, as they have an increased risk of flooding and other environmental disasters.
The FCC is calling on individuals to report a disaster or contact the Office of National Security (ONS) on 076 612775.
FCC says that, with support from several partners and the central Government, it will continue to collaborate with the military to implement the City’s 2020 Flood Mitigation programme as they have done in the last month in 52 communities across Freetown.
According to the FCC, their interventions which include clearing of blocked culverts, drainages and silted gutters and waterways, help reduce incidence of flooding in certain vulnerable communities.
However, the council says that the current practice of building along waterways and in flood plains in parts of the city leave many residents vulnerable, and that its flood mitigation activities cannot effectively address this land use planning challenge.
Lamenting on the looming flooding disaster awaiting several low-lying communities in Freetown this rainy season, Dr. Sillah Kargbo, former presidential adviser – Water Resources and Water Infrastructure, wrote:
“I don’t know what is wrong with our politicians. I wrote a flood management project and while I was at State House, we hired an American Engineering Consulting firm to do the first part of the study. The government of Sierra Leone still owes that firm $1,300,000 so that they could complete the design of the drainage system.
“I am made to understand that the SLPP Paopa government say it is an APC debt. Now people are suffering from avoidable floods and possibly mudslides. Freetown is the wettest country capital in the world, with an average of 5000 mm of rainfall per year. Are the authorities going to sit down and see such devastating flooding every rainy season?
“I gave a copy of Freetown Stormwater Management Report to the Mayor and Ministry of Finance and pleaded with them to pay the consultants to complete their work and nothing has been done. Most of the city’s flood waters are coming from the hills that have been deforested for uncontrolled and unplanned housing constructions.
“The proposed flood Management system includes the construction of 29 cascaded ponds to temporarily hold the large volumes of flows coming from the hills and released in a controlled way through specially designed weirs into the also proposed overland drainage network. The proposed Stormwater system also include a subsurface storm sewer system to prevent the street flooding we are seeing in these videos.
“Government should be continuity. SLPP please you cannot ignore projects initiated by the previous government, meant to protect the lives and property of our people, you need to complete this project for God’s sake. People are suffering.
“Your government also has the Rokel River Water Supply project I submitted to the Ministry of Water Resources to address the water supply problem in Freetown. Please be patriotic citizens and implement those two projects for the good of all.”
Successive governments have paid lip service to the problems and dangers of deforestation, climate change, and flooding in Freetown, and there is no indication of a concerted action to effect real change anytime soon.