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World Water Day – Water water everywhere not a drop to drink!

World Water Day – Water water everywhere not a drop to drink!

March 22 every year is designated as World Water Day with Clean Water for Good Health, as this year’s theme. In Sierra Leone, this could not be more relevant. The state of water in Sierra Leone is so poor that the famous phrase “water water everywhere, not a drop to drink” rings true. We are surrounded with water everywhere in Sierra Leone, yet a well defined and coherent plan could not be activated to solve the water problem. Even those living in the desert in the Middle East have put their water problems behind them.  Desalination of water from the sea has solved the water problem for those countries, yet we in Sierra Leone are floundering as if we do not live on the same planet earth and in our case blessed with all the water that we need. Are we waiting for God or Allah to come down and harness the water for us?

What yardstick do we use to measure the success of a Government?  Everyday, we hear a lot of sound and fury on the airwaves from sycophants with vested self interests, as to how wonderful and successful the administration of Ernest Bai Koroma is doing. We went through the same motion during the tenure of Tejan-Kabbah. However, when one comes on the ground and takes an objective analysis devoid of rank political party affiliation, the sound and fury amounts to nothing. We are too far behind in development for anyone honestly to be praise singing any President for the past thirteen and a half years (1996-2010) or for that matter any of our development partners.

The sad part of all of this, is that even the international community in a display of diplomacy or rather hypocrisy, instead of telling the truth, wrap up our ineptitude in diplomatic language and give us praises that we do not deserve. While laughing at us behind closed doors and hoping that we always remain in a dormant state, since there is some personal benefit to be gained, such as continued employment in Sierra Leone or any other poor underdeveloped nation, in either a United Nations’ Agency, DFID, European Union, etc.,etc., while we perpetually remain terribly underdeveloped under their control. Performances which in their own societies would be considered a failure are touted as successes in Sierra Leone, as if we are being paternalised or operating as if we are in a state of affirmative action, that is, being given a passing grade even though we do not deserve it. When these international civil servants, then file their official reports, they reveal the truth on the ground, hence the reason for our bottom position on the Human Development Index. Contrast the Executive Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations’ praise singing at the State House in the presence of His Excellency and his factual report a few days later in front of the Security Council.     

What this does is that successive Governments become complacent, believing that since the international community is joining the sycophants in the praise singing, indeed, progress is being made. Do not take my word for it. Objectively consider the intermittent power supply situation currently, electricity being supplied once or twice a week, even in the capital, Freetown, that is being considered a success. There are huge areas in Freetown, which went without power supply continuously for five months last year, during the period when the country was gripped with the euphoria that the Koroma administration had restored light to Freetown. So what is Freetown now, the darkest city on most days and little light on other days, instead of total darkness as it was during Kabbahs time.   

It is only when an occasion such as World Water Day is celebrated, that we display our backwardness and how much we have retrogressed in our development. On March 22, 2010, all the communities that were interviewed over the airwaves expressed frustration and hopelessness over the lack of water, not to mention clean water. In this year of our Lord, 2010, all people could talk about were water wells in the capital of Freetown. At independence, the water supply in the capital was 100 times better than it is today. Hello do you hear me? Do I have to repeat it?  

The people over the radio recounted how they have no choice but to partake of the water from wells without any guarantee of the safety of such water. They told their story over the electronic media, from community to community all echoing the same song about the unavailability of clean water. It therefore is hard to understand why we should drop the bar so low, when we give pass marks to any Government that could not provide safe clean drinking water to its citizens in the 21st Century. Are we reduced in Sierra Leone to such low standards that we are content with the lack of the most basic amenities, such as water, and yet some die hard partisans, both during the tenure of Tejan-Kabbah and now during that of Ernest Koroma without looking at the total picture, go about and even send in text messages and make calls to radio stations to praise and bless the successes of a non-performing Government, which cannot provide us with water even in Freetown? If the situation in the capital Freetown is this dire and desparate, one can imagine the state of the water in the Provinces. Who is really fooling who?

How could students perform well in school and on external examinations when most of their time is spent in searching for water? This state of affairs was clearly articulated in the reported interviews over the electronic media on World Water Day. The students wake up as early as 2:00 a.m. and spend hours at the water wells or the hard to find taps just to obtain five gallon jelly cans of water. By the time this exercise is completed, it is past the time for school and the result is that absenteeism becomes a norm for the students caught up in such situations.  When they manage to attend school, they are tired and their level of concentration is zero.

Even those interviewed at Fourah Bay College recounted their trials and tribulations surrounding the unavailability of water. This writer’s own investigation revealed the unhygienic state in which the students at Fourah Bay College exist, all because of the lack of water. Toilets cannot be flushed, baths cannot be taken and the entire residential halls on campus are then reduced to a stinking hell hole. Is this what higher education has been reduced to in Sierra Leone? No wonder the secondary school students are not motivated to climb up to mount Olympus (Fourah Bay College). Gone are the good old days, when having climbed up to Mount Olympus, the rest of the Sierra Leonean population began to consider you as the crème de la crème of society. How could our students be given such status when their residence is not too far removed from Bomeh?

The powers that be are quick to indicate that there has been a population explosion in the capital and as such the dams built in the 1950’s to serve a given population can no longer accommodate the current bloated population in the city. To this the answer is excuses, excuses, excuses. There are cities all over the world with even more population than that of Sierra Leone, yet their governments provide them with clean drinking water. Were we not promised by the operatives in this Government , including His Excellency The President , that there would be no excuses for non-performance and that the country would be administered as a business?  Should a business not have basic amenities to be run successfully or did his Excellency mean a business which is a failure? So from whence is that noise full of excuses coming? This Party in power had been the main opposition Party for ten or eleven years and was very much au fait with all the problems that are still existing, almost three years after coming into office. The failure to plan and thus planning to fail should not be used as an excuse for failing to provide the people with basic necessities.

This Government does not understand the meaning of the word “prioritize”.  It spends all its time and all our money concentrating on electricity, the supply of which at best is mediocre, (when the huge sums spent is put on a scale of cost benefit ratio), leaving unattended the source of life- WATER. There is no alternative known to man, as far as water is concerned, with electricity there are so many other alternatives with which man can make do. Do not get the writer wrong power supply is very important, but clean, safe water supply is very very important and mankind cannot do without it. Being put in the position to make decisions and provide for the needs of the people means that you have to be able to blow your nose and whistle at the same time. A Government should not take up one project at a time, but should be able to be like a juggler, handling several competing development interests at the same time.

Perhaps, if his Excellency, The President during his first year in office had refrained from acquiring frequent traveler miles in the air, and had concentrated more on domestic issues, World Water Day would have been full of more positive results and comments from the citizenry.   So let us get serious about the lessons learnt from World Water Day and build the proposed dams all over the country that we have been hearing about. We started hearing about plans for the Orogoo Dam since even before the coming into office of this administration. Is this going to be another Bumbuna? We need less talk and more performance. No one expects Kotor IB, the Minister of Information, to adopt the Zain promotion-more talk. The natives are restless and are busy asking “what has this Government done for me lately?

There is no question that “Clean Water is Good Health” and that the easiest and fastest way to contract a serious disease in the blood stream is through contaminated water. This could be either through drinking or cooking with contaminated water. With the current state of our water problems and His Excellency’s promise to provide free health care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five, the Government hospitals and clinics should be ready to be saturated with complaints of illnesses from water borne diseases. To minimize such complaints, it is necessary to quickly bring to fruition a safe clean water system all over the country, otherwise the Government would be spending tons of money on the victims of these water borne diseases, who are the intended beneficiaries of the free health care plan. Preventive health care is certainly better than cure and this would only hold true with an effective safe clean water system.

Raymond Bamidele Thompson, Sr.

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