Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 May 2019:
In an innovative drive to change Sierra Leone’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector for the efficient and effective delivery of improved access to and utlisation of available water resources in Sierra Leone, Minister of Water Resources – Engineer Dr. Jonathan Bonopha Tengbe has worked with his administrative and professional staff to achieve remarkable progress in the past one year as head of the ministry.
Amid huge challenges facing the water sector, due to inadequate budgetary allocation, leakages in pipes, illegal connections, encroachment of catchment protection areas, little or non-payment of tariff and stone mining activities around the Guma Dam in Freetown and the regional towns and cities, the ministry is working very hard to change the sector and improve the delivery of safe drnking water across the country.
In order to achieve this, and on taking up office, Minister Tengbe conducted a comprehensive review of the whole sector and closely worked with his professional and administrative staff and formulated monitorable and achievable short, medium and long term plans to resuscitate the water sector .
As part of the one year deliverables under the short and medium term plan, a Ministerial Partnership Coordination Unit has been set up in collaboration with development partners to support Water Sanitation and Hygiene( WASH) programme in all social amenity structures across the country, including – schools, colleges, health facilities , market places , prisons and correctional centers, police stations and other public institutions.
The minister says that premium is placed on the free quality education flagship project of President Bio, to ensure that safe and adequate water supply is accessible and affordable in all public schools, irrespective of region and political party affiliation to enhance high standard of hygiene and sanitation practice in learning institutions.
Delivering a pro-poor innovative strategy to address some of the water related social problems in communities, a project called Freetown Dry Season Water Supply Project was launched to deliver connection of pipes and installation of 10,000 Liter water tanks, trucking water to water stressed communities, construction water gravity schemes, etc.
The project has started in some of the hard to reach communities in the Western Area of Freetown. Additionally, contracts have been signed for the construction of 45 industrial boreholes in Freetown.
These facilities according to the Minister – Dr. Tengbe, would be further improved on during the implementation of the ministry’s medium to long term plan.
During the rains the Ministry has raised awareness on the need to harvest water as stipulated by the National WASH Policy 2011 for domestic and other uses.
Delivering the long-term plan, the Ministry has now operationalized the 3 town’s water supply project in Bo, Kenema and Makeni, by extending connection to social amenities and residential places to serve residents and the general population of those communities.
Improved water supply at districts and rural areas is on track, with substantial efforts put into the drilling of more bore holes in rural areas and connection of pipes to social structures and households across every district in Sierra Leone.
“In other words, our taps in the provincial towns of Bo, Kenema, Makeni, Kambia, Mile 91, Lunsar, Kabala, Magburaka and Pujehun are up and running with the support of Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO), District Water Engineers and the Local Councils at a very expensive running cost to procure chemicals (chlorine) and fuel to supply water to consumers,” says Minister Tengbe.
However, the Ministry is confronted with non-payment of tariff by users of water facilities in those communities. “We are continuously pleading with all concerned to cooperate with the tariff system, so as to generate the much-needed running cost for sustainable water supply,” the Minister admonishes households.
Funds have been secured also for the construction and upgrading of six additional towns, covering Kailahun, Moyamba, Pujehun, Kambia, Magburaka and Kabala
Delivering the flagship River Rokel Water Supply Project, the Ministry has in the last year designed an advanced plan to attract public-private sector investment, starting with the drawing up of Terms of Reference (TOR) to identify result-oriented contractor to do the work. A memorandum of understanding has been signed with the most responsive contractor after due diligence was carried.
Detailed feasibility studies and preliminary design for the Rokel project are in progress and expected to be completed by September this year.
As a result of the current political will and leadership of the ministry, potential foreign direct investors have been ear marked to rollout implementation of the project from start to finish.
This will be followed by the construction of water facility for phase one by a Chinese firm that has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Sierra Leone.
On completion of the project, fresh water will be sourced from the River Rokel to the treatment plant for proper purification and quality assurance before supplying water to 24 communities along the line to Central Freetown, while the Guma Valley Dam which has recently gone through major re-habilitation, expansion and repairs on transmission and distribution network, will service the far West of Freetown to the central districts of Freetown.
Under the New Direction, the Ministry has concluded water quality training for staff with support from Unite State center for Disease Control but more needs to be done on quality, especially in the area of technical and logistical assistance to functionalize the new National Water Resource Management Agency.
Also, the Ministry of Water Resources has setup the National Water Resource Management Agency (NWRMA) to manage catchment areas and to regulate the effective use of raw water in Sierra Leone, and charge user’s fees especially for the corporate mining companies and electricity or energy suppliers. NWRMA has commenced operations.
In the same development, the Ministry of Water Resources is collaborating with the Ministry of Health, Local Government and Environment Protection Agency (EPA) on the effective management of sewage and environmental sanitation.
Feasibility studies on over 40 Degremont stations across the country are ongoing.
In a bid to showcase the potential of water resources in Sierra Leone , the Minister of Water Resources attended high level international conferences in the United States, Tagistan and other nations, on Sustainable Development Goal(SDG) where he talked tough on the need for pillar 6 of SDG to provide potable water supply to everyone without discrimination.
Ongoing activities at the water ministry include the construction of 100 solar powered bore holes in 13 Districts.
1,266 water points and 316 sanitation facilities have been completed in Kambia, Bonthe, Kono, Pujehun and Koinadugu district, with funds from the African Development Bank.
Development work for the construction of pipe borne water supply in Bonthe, Matru Jong, Falaba, Karene, Mano Dasse, Taiama, Njala, Koidu/ New Sembehun, Yengema and Port Loko are ongoing.
Delivering institutional reforms, Urban WASH Roadmap and institutional strengthening support to GUMA Valley Water Company to improve on sanitation and water supply services, have been developed.
After one year in governance, the water ministry is calling for a lot more effort by all sector players including government and development partners, to achieve the 74% water supply and 66% sanitation coverage respectively.