By Cyril Barnes
“A stitch in time saves nine.”
Every year Sierra Leone is blessed with ample sufficiency of rain to help us grow our crops and reserve water for consumption and other domestic purposes. The importance of water cannot be overemphasized as water has been here even before the world became a home of myriads of creatures, more so the home of human persons. If it were to talk to us, then it would have told us rich stories about creation and how the earth was clean and organised before we (humans) eventually surfaced. Whichever way we look at it, our life totally depends on it.
It is quite limpid that the rainy season is here again; few erratic drops have reminded us of its advent which means that we must get prepared to tackle the blunders of the past before another catastrophe dawn on us. Reports reveal that the arctic circle is getting warmer year after year as a result of manmade activities like deforestation, mining etc. Due to this trending challenges, it is believed that there will be flooding along the coastal lines of different continents especially West Africa.
What had been the challenge over the past decades was to tackle our garbage; the illiterate as well as the enlightened would dare to throw empty food sachets and water plastics in the streets hoping that the ministry responsible for managing waste would gather them and properly dispose them. Those plastic bags, sachets, drink bottles and other waste materials that we throw in the streets get stuck in our drainages thereby blocking an outpouring water to properly make its way into the ocean.
People, especially those in the hilly regions and those very close to drainages, have nurtured the attitude of dumping wastes in their drainages; they see a downpour as an opportunity to empty their dirt into the drainages with a view that the water takes it wherever it goes. When water is blocked, it makes its way into our communities, streets and homes sweeping away precious lives and valuable property. The act of dumping our dirt in drainages eventually causes erosion, flooding and landslide.
This very act of filthiness leaves our life expectancy rate ebbing away at 35 years. I cannot imagine a capital city in any part of the world as filthy as ours, and I also cannot also imagine former presidents ruling a nation that is so inclined to filth with Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Freetown City Council and MASADA operating as key drivers. Treating our environment like this exposes us to unimaginable diseases like cholera and diarrhoea. Who could tell whether filth was the reason why the Ebola Virus killed most of our able bodied men and women. The filthy-culture has been imbibed so much in us to a degree that we are hardly comfortable with a clean environment.
THE WAY FORWARD
*President Bio has instituted the Saturday cleaning exercise, through his first Executive Order, to hitherto clean our surroundings before the rainy season intensifies. That is a good step to effectively get rid of dirt in our environment, drainages and properly dispose our debris to save us from the ugly incidents that busted us with hindsight of 16th September 2016 and 14th August 2017 which robbed the lives of thousands of Sierra Leoneans. Those who are criticising its applicability must know that, the cleaning day is the only avenue to save us from another death toll. This nation has undergone enough destruction over the past years, so instituting Saturday cleaning activities will be a win win situation for both the government and its people.
Ghana’s health ministry is currently doing the above to avoid a reemergence of last year’s flood.
To beat the odds of filth and make Sierra Leone clean again and institute robust measures to tackle it, here are few important recommendations:
1. Street should be addressed! Traders should have ideal places to do their various trading activities, as they are one of the reasons why the city is as filthy as it is. There is no sober city in the world that allow street trading. We must forget about the politics and remove them off the streets.
2. Parties concerned (FCC, MOHS) should make laws (with penalties attached) to tackle the unhealthy behaviour of dumping wastes in our drainages. Or if any exists, they should enforce it to ensure that Freetown becomes the radiance among other cities of the world.
3. Parties concerned should embark on massive sensitisation campaign, thereby raising awareness about the ills and implications of dumping waste materials all around us.
4. Health/sanitary officers, whose responsibilities were to monitor every compound in the city, should be re-instituted.
This is an opportunity to save ourselves from ourselves. If all these points highlighted are taken into consideration, then we will achieve environmental sanity.