Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 July 2020:
The National Water Resources Management (NWRMA) last Thursday, held discussions with Ministers and Heads of Agencies at its office in Freetown to review the Western Area Water Catchments Protection and Restoration effort.
The discussions also assessed the regulation, management and sustainable use of the country’s water resources as well as ensuring that the environment is protected.
A study conducted by NWRMA in January 2020 and funded by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) looked at the Western Area Catchment, in terms of land tenure, increase in deforestation, massive land encroachment, stone mining, undersized and dilapidated structures in some catchment areas and catchment areas left unprotected.
The study suggests that all catchment areas within the Western Area should be delineated and protected.
The Minister of the Environment, Dr. Foday Jaward stressed that owing to the importance of this issue, two Ministerial Committees on Lands and Water Resources were set up to have oversight.
Dr. Dennis Sandy, Minister of Lands, Housing and Country Planning expressed his ministry’s commitment to the process, and also disclosed that his ministry has identified areas of engagement within the peninsular communities.
He noted the study done by the CRS suggested the recruitment of ex-service men as guards on the protected areas and also erecting giant coloured walls for demarcation.
The Minister of Water Resources, Phillip K. Lansana said collaboration and coordination are required to map out the roles and responsibilities of each ministry in restoring the catchment areas.
The Minister called for special attention to be paid to selected catchment areas within the peninsular to be protected, as doing so will guarantee enough water supply for Freetown.
The Western Area catchment is threatened by an increase in population density coupled with demand for land for the construction of a new or extending of existing settlements. This has put excessive pressure on land and forest, leading to widespread clearing of forested areas previously used as recharge for the construction of water supply facilities.
In addition, climate change may increase hydrological variability making it more difficult to meet increasing water supply demands. These combined effects of encroachment and climate change have posed an increasing pollution and scarcity of both surface and ground water resources for different uses.
This threatens the achievement of Goal Six (6) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which covers access to safe drinking water, and help in promoting a healthy environment.
The National Water Resources Management Agency (NWRMA) was formed by Act No. 5 of 2017. It was one of the recommendations of the National Water and Sanitation Policy of 2010.
The Agency has broad functions of regulating, utilizing, protecting, developing, conserving, control, and management of water resources in Sierra Leone.
In another related development, the Freetown City Council (FCC) has issued Flood Risk Warning as heavy rains continue to threaten vulnerable and flood disaster prone areas of the capital. In a stamen published last week, the Council said: “FCC is calling on residents, especially those who live in communities prone to flooding to remain alert as heavy rains have been predicted over the next three days. Residents living in lowlands and flood plains along the coast are advised to be vigilant especially at night as they have an increased risk of flooding and other environmental disasters. To report a disaster contact ONS on 076 612775.
“FCC, with support from several partners and the central government, will continue collaborating with RSLAF to implement the 2020 Flood Mitigation exercise, as we have done over the last month in 52 communities across Freetown.
“Our interventions – clearing blocked culverts, drainages and silted gutters and waterways – help reduce incidences of flooding in certain vulnerable communities. However, the current practice of building along waterways and in flood plains in parts of the city leave many residents vulnerable. FCC’s flood mitigation activities cannot effectively address this land use planning challenge. The health and well-being of all Freetonians is of paramount concern to us.”