Minister Tengbe is determined to turn Sierra Leone’s water sector around

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.


  1. Godwin, what is the difference between delivering water to COMMUNITIES with WATER TANKERS and digging WATER WELLS? Also, which one is safer? Which one is CHEAPER as a stop gap/temporary measure? Providing water to COMMUNITIES with WATER TANKERS is also a stop gap/temporary measure. Right?

    These people are using the term INDUSTRIAL, which means, it is going to be a very expensive WATER WELL. By the way, the people have waited for ages in those DISGUSTING WATER SHORTAGE situations. Waiting for three years with a temporary water supply by using WATER TANKERS to their communities will not be a problem. But wasting government FUNDS like that should be a non starter and is UNACCEPTABLE in my view. DISCUSS/ARGUE. Thanks Godwin for your insight.

  2. Water Crisis and Health in Sierra Leone

    Sierra Leone is a familiar and newsworthy country. Regrettably, all for the wrong reasons. Right off the gate, Sierra Leone is most often associated with and noted for its large and controversial industry of diamond mining. Recall the American-made movie: Blood Diamond, staring, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the Beninois, Djimon Hounsou, among others.

    It should be noted that, on the whole, no benefits have been realized particularly within the immediate areas from which the most sort after diamond is primarily obtained. (Is it a resource curse)? What ever happened to the 709-carat diamond that was found by no less a personality than a clergy of modest means, hey! The country demands answers.

    Another sad feature of the diamond trade that Sierra Leone is notable for is the brutal civil war that lasted a decade and left a visibly heart wrenching proliferation of amputees and refugees who are a impoverished and displaced population roaming the streets of Freetown, the capital city no less.

    As if the foregone designations are not embarrassing enough, Sierra Leone is marked by yet again, as having one of the poorest standards of living in the world. Additionally, it has the seventh lowest life expectancy and one of the highest infant mortality rates.

    An astonishing seventy percent of the population is poor and lives below the poverty line, as measured by the much-respected United Nations global guidelines. An ominous designation that can be bestowed upon any country.

    Illiteracy is rampant; education has been much maligned and under funded by almost all previous governments. Even the army and police are much generously funded. And there has never been any external conflict with another country per se, except internal riot country by police.

    This 2018 statistics is a testimonial to the state of affairs is Sierra Leone today: total population is a mere 7.88 million; gross national income per capital is about $1750 per year, if at all; life expectancy is 52/54 male/female; probability of dying under five years of age per 1000 live births is 110; probability of dying between 15 and 60 years is 394/383 m/f (1000 population); total expenditure on heath-care per capital is $224. total expenditure on healthcare as a % of GDP (2017) is $11.1

    These are daunting figures indeed. Where is the collective conscious of our leaders? Where is the patriotism, where is the shame to treat your own fellow citizens this way with total disregard and contempt with all the money that comes into the country in respect to foreign aid. But I digress. Back to the topic at hand.

    The recent Water Resource Ministry’s focus on water availability and sustainability in Sierra Leone should be commended. The ministry, headed by Engineer Dr. Jonathan Bonopha Tengbe has embarked upon a formidable groundbreaking effort to change the narrative.

    Most of the drinking water and their sources in Sierra Leone are freestanding ponds and unprotected wells. It is absolutely unsafe for drinking and for practically any other purpose whatsoever.

    Infectious contaminants and parasites, most found in ponds, and unprotected wells abound in these waters, leading to the largest cause of death in the country.

    Undoubtedly, poor sanitation generates high risk of hepatitis A and Typhoid fever, a common occurrence in the country. Sierra Leoneans collect most of their drinking water from polluted sources, which have undoubtedly contributed to the poor sanitation and health problems in the country. A commentary in this newspaper stated thus:

    “Amid huge challenges facing the water sector, due to inadequate budgetary allocation, leakages in pipes, illegal connections, encroachment of catchments 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 drinking water across the country”. Amid years of neglect by the appropriate authorities.

    The ministry of water resources, first ever in Sierra Leone, is a clear commitment to change the country for the better.
    WATER IS LIFE. Let’s get on with it Mr. Minister

  3. Sahr Matturi, we disagree now and then but I agree with you entirely this time. Minister Tengbe has to understand that rhetoric does not sway the average Sierra Leonean anymore – raw evidence and practicality are what holds sway. Indeed he should be talking about dams not wells [bore holes he calls them].

    The Minister should be reminded that we are into the 21st century and for him to associate a whole country with wells as a basic source of water supply is totally sadistic and unacceptable. He has to work with the Ministry of Country Planning [which should actually be called the Ministry of chaotic planning] forthwith to ascertain where dams can be built without the destruction of the environment.

    The Minister sensibly glosses over the fact that people have constructed homes around the Guma Dam, which I believe is government land to avoid somebody voicing out the opinion that these people should be properly compensated and moved somewhere else for the dam to be fully rehabilitated – possibly expanded.

    However the Minister has to be commended for his effort.

    • Santhkie, I would assume that we one day chat over a cup of coffee after opposing each other on serious issues/debates in PARLIAMENT. Our PARLIAMENTARIANS should be following the good attitudes/examples of some of us and put them into practice. That will help in creating a good political atmosphere and help move the country away from divisiveness. But will they care?
      Thanks Santhkie for agreeing with me.

  4. Great idea by the Minister. But my question is, why waste government FUNDS to construct 45 INDUSTRIAL BOREHOLES? Boreholes in other words are WATER WELLS basically. First of all Dr. Tengbe, the GUMA DAM and all the WATER RESERVOIRS in the country where constructed for the population at that time. Now, the population of all these towns have grown immensely.

    So, we don’t need short term fixes. What we need is, the expansion of these DAMS and RESERVOIRS or, building additional ones to cater for the present population and beyond. The ministry can provide water tankers which can supply water to communities till expansion or construction of new DAMS or RESERVOIRS are completed. That would not be a problem in my view. However, good luck with your strategy.

    • The idea of the boreholes is not bad as a stop gap measure. Water and sanitation go hand in hand. Lack of clean water may cause water borne diseases that may kill people in their hundreds. It will take at least three years to complete a dam no matter how small, another source of water is surely required to fill in the gap.

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