Pollution and Sanitation Problems as Setbacks to Sustainable Water Resources Management in Freetown

Article excerpt

Introduction

The civil conflict in Sierra Leone (1991-2001) caused an influx of internally displaced persons to Freetown from various parts of the country hoping for refuge in a safer place. This rural-urban drift led to a doubling of the population from some 550,000 to 1,200,000 (Statistics Sierra Leone, 2004). The population increase overstretched housing facilities, resulting in the creation of camps and many squatter settlements, particularly in the hillside areas. The settlements occurred despite warnings by the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Country Planning. The government was concerned that the creation of settlements in the hillside areas was responsible for the rapid loss of vegetation in these areas, leading to occasional landslides. Another serious problem associated with the rapid hillside settlement establishment is that the rocky nature of the terrain makes it very difficult to establish water sanitation facilities, such as toilets and water wells. Consequently, poor sanitation management occurs as crowded squatter settlements are developed in the hillside areas.

The swelling of the urban population and the creation of illegal settlements resulted in serious problems in municipal waste management and general sanitation practices. Potable water resources have become inadequate in the city, partly because of the increase in water demand and poor environmental management but also because of pollution of water resources due to inappropriate sanitation practices. In May and June 2006 the most acute water shortage ever in the history of Freetown took place, The Guma reservoir, from which the Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC) supplies about 90% of the city's potable water, was recently upgraded to a storage capacity of 5.2 billion gallons to meet the demanded of 650,000 inhabitants (Humphrey & Partners Ltd., 1994). Although adequate under normal circumstances, the influx of refugees put and excess demand of some 550,000 inhabitants on the reservoir area have been cited by some experts as the main causes of the drying-up of the reservoir in May and June 2006. These problems led to Freetown's acute water shortage during this period (Luke-Johnson, 2006)

Following this acute water shortage, the issue of sustainable water resources management gained a broader national focus. Under normal circumstances. Free-town has huge water resources potential, with six to seven months of relief rainfall that feed the catchinents of several small streams (Majue & Swaray, 2006). These numerous bodies of water and the ground-water resources should be considered as alternative sources for water extraction in the case of seasonal water shortages of the Guma reservoir. The ongoing sanitation practices in the city, however, have resulted in clearly visible pollution of most of these water sources, making them very turbid and colored in appearance.

TABLE 1

Results of Leachate and Stream Water Sample Analysis from Freetown's
Two Waste Dumps

                                           Sample

Environmental Parameter    Leachate      Water     Leachate  Water
                          (Granville  (Granville   (Kington  (Congo
                             Waste       Brook      Waste    River)
                             Dump)      Stream)     Dump)

Temperature ([degrees]C)      44          28          36        28

pH                           8.0         7.5           8        5.5

Conductivity([mu]S/cm)     6,700        1,200       2,900       360

N[H.sub.4]-N (mg/I)         >400          50        60-100      0.0

COD (mg/I)                 1,700          -           630        -

pb (mg/I)                  0.23           -           0.11       -

Cr (mg/I)                  0.12           -           0.06       -

Cu (mg/I)                  0.30           -           0.08       -

Zn (mg/I)                  0.50           -           0.42       -

Note. The dashes (-) in the table indicate that the parameters were
below analytical detection limit. …