By Saikou Suwareh Jabai
Residents in Sukuta have raised serious concern over the decision of the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) to close down or introduce the selling of water at some street taps within their locality.
The affected communities have indicated that the closure of taps and the introduction of payments to access portable and drinking water pose a challenge to them, especially the low income households.
Fatou Touray, one of the residents, said this new arrangement is an imposition that offers them no choice or alternative. She said they are compelled by the situation to accept it in order to have access to clean water for drinking and cooking.
Another resident, Mr. Bakary Bojang, a compound owner and head of a household, said this new arrangement was introduced last month (June).
Mr. Bojang, who also doubles as a member of the Village Development Committee (VDC), said the NAWEC officials removed the street tap in front of his compound and relocated it inside his compound and gave him the responsibility to be collecting the payments from consumers. He said his compound was recommended for this purpose because of its proximity which is just 5 meters away from the original location of the street tap. He said he is charging one dalasi fifty butut (D1.50) for the big containers and pans and one dalasi (D1) for smaller containers and buckets.
Mr. Bojang also spoke about the challenges he is facing in executing this responsibility. He cited such difficulties as having to ensure that everyone who comes there to fetch water pays the stipulated amount and that some people sometimes come in the night to get water while he is asleep.
He said he has even sacrificed to give up a strategic portion of his land for the purpose, adding that if he did not accept the responsibility then NAWEC would have ended up closing the tap permanently.
Asked if he is paid by either NAWEC or the community for the responsibility, Mr. Bojang replied in the negative, saying he is doing it for his community.
However, Mr. Bojang highlighted that the decision has some positive effects, as the water which was previously misused and wasted is now controlled.
When contacted on the issue, Mr. Pierre Silver, the NAWEC Public Relation Officer (PRO), said this operation has been ongoing for about three years now. He said Serekunda, Gunjur, Brikama and some surrounding villages have the same arrangement in place.
He said it was the area councils who were paying for the water bills of public taps within their jurisdictions but are no longer doing it now as they said they are running at a lost.
He said this is why they gave back the task of collecting revenues to the communities who are the final consumers of the water.