Churches in Sierra Leone, through the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone (CCSL), join faith communities all over the world, under the auspices of the WCC Ecumenical Water Network in celebrating this day.
The theme for this year’s celebration is: “Making the invisible visible.” This theme draws our attention to the importance of groundwater as a hidden vital resource that is believed to provide almost half of all drinking water worldwide. This year’s celebrations seek to draw our attention to this hidden vital God-given resource.
The value of water cannot be measured in monetary terms. Water indeed is life. Every human being is in need of water for survival. Thus, if people are denied of adequate supplies of water, they are denied life. Water is indispensable for human dignity. Provision of water is not a privilege offered to people, but the right of people.
The provision of safe and affordable water is a human right recognized in international law, through human rights treaties and declarations that Sierra Leone subscribed to. It is incumbent on any government to see to it that clean, safe, accessible and affordable water is available for personal and domestic uses of the people it governs. For any government to negate that responsibility is to violate the God-given right of God’s people.
We express our strong concern that, it is estimated over two-thirds of our population are without adequate supply of portable clean and affordable water.
We recognise the various challenges and constraints of the companies that are entrusted with the supply of this essential commodity to the population of our nation. However, these challenges have remained for far too long and no serious attempts are made towards solution. The provision of water for the vulnerable population of our nation MUST be a priority. We need decisive actions towards solution of the problems. Hence the relevance of his year’s theme.
As stated in our last year’s statement, we are tired of global reports that tell us that only 13% of Sierra Leone’s population has access to water and sanitation.
We express strong concern that pipe-borne water in Freetown, the capital of our nation, is obtained in the most unhygienic way – with pipes going through gutters and drainages and people having to put their containers in the filthy gutters to obtain water. It is degrading to say the least. Water-borne infections and parasites found in contaminated water are among the leading causes of death in Sierra Leone as people contact typhoid fever and hepatitis A. We need running water to homes and public stand pipes. Some people pay their water bills, yet fail to receive supply of water to their homes. This is unacceptable. How can people keep paying for a commodity that is not adequately supplied?
It’s a right, not a privilege and the people of Sierra Leone deserve better service in this regard.
We call for promised pending projects such as the Rokel River Water Supply, Orogu Water Supply, Kongo and Babadorie water system, and the expansion of the Guma Valley system be made a reality soonest.
We welcome the news that of 200 to 300 boreholes are to be installed by the government by 2022 to 2023 around the country.
We appreciate moves made by government to remove squatters from our waterways, catchment areas and installations and look forward for its speed implementation.
We appeal that there should be no further shift in the green belt. In addition, local climate change factors (widespread deforestation) must be thoroughly and rigorously addressed.
We are also concerned with the level of commercialization of water by entrepreneurs whose sole aim is profit making. It is because the State is failing to provide clean, safe, and affordable water to its citizens that we have unscrupulous businesspeople who capitalize on the vulnerability of our people.
Plastic water sachets are unacceptable as the plastics contaminate our streams and rivers and even the ocean.
Many of the plastic water containers marketed are from sources belonging to the Sierra Leone Water Company and Guma Valley Water Company with little or no added value. We call for the ban of non-renewable plastics that are very difficult to dispose of and have proven dire environmental impacts now and the future.
We are also greatly concerned with the present pollution of our rivers, particularly of the Taia River. We went on a fact finding mission and did an assessment of the polluted river, from Matotoka and Magburaka (Pampana), Taiama (Taia) and Mattru Jong (Jong). We were appalled by the level of pollution.
The river used to be a source of livelihood (fishing and sand mining) for many. It no longer serves that purpose as a result of pollution. Fishes are infected and sand deteriorates in quality. Women who planted vegetables on the river banks can no longer do so. The river has all gone brown in colour and the water level gone low.
In addition to being source of livelihood, the river provided recreation for the villagers. Now they can no longer swim in the river. The pollution is believed to be a result of mining activities utilizing toxic chemical substances. The pollution is having a dire and hazardous effect on the populace of the riverine communities. Regulatory bodies charged with policing the mining activities should not have overlapping mandates but should collaborate and coordinate activities. “Surprise visits” should be considered by the regulatory agencies and ministries to ensure an end to polluting activities. CCSL can assist in this “policing” by utilizing the local media houses and other mass media to educate and sensitise the public to this danger.
As church, we believe that this is not what God wills for his people. To the contrary, God says:
Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand fishing beside the sea… it will be a place for the spreading of nets; its fish will be of a great many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing. (Ezekiel 47.9 – 12)
We appreciate the response to action by the the Ministry of Water Resources, Office of National Security, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Minerals Agency to the call that we made both following our fact-finding mission and during the last World Water Day in 2021.
We call for urgent action by the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Mines, Ministry of Water Resources; Environment Protection Agency, and National Mining Agency to take urgent additional action to stop the pollution of our rivers, (River Taia in particular) and save the lives of our citizens. The protection of citizens is a right and not a favour.
We now call for a complete ban of all gold mining activities along the rivers and that persons/companies found guilty be requested to make full compensation to the affected population and for the restoration of the environment.
GOD BLESS OUR NATION AND ALL ITS RESOURCES!!!
Rev. Henry Abioseh Samuels
President of Council of Churches in Sierra Leone