The gutters along the roads here are home to a spagetti of blue plastic water pipes. Some even have water in them but when things get difficult people wait until it is quiet and cut pipes at will in order to get the water they need. The result: however legal your connection to the mains is, there is no guarantee whatsoever that it will continue to provide water.
We had had a connection, paid up, signed up,everything all as it should be. Alhassan had sorted it 2 weeks before he died. But then it all fell apart. The ‘free lance’ plumbers do moonlight work and disconnect and connect people’s pipes at will for the right fee. Guma Valley workers have meanwhile been arresting those caught taking water at any illegal joins in the pipes but the majority of houses in Sheriff Drive have not had reliable water supplies for months and this is dry season so, in town, piped water is the only option. None of our students have been arrested yet but it has been very close on several occasions.
Yesterday, a whole EducAid army of shovellers and arguers finally succeeded in getting us connected back after over a month of not a drop of rightful water in the compound. The consequence for time wasting never mind exhaustion as the kids fetch and carry buckets and buckets of water from either a dodgy stream down the valley or from some illegally cut pipe is enormous. Yesterday was a good day, therefore!
The piped water system here is quite extraordinary though. As ever, corruption is the order of the day so one can easily go and get a plumber to disconnect your neighbour and connect you and for a while you may get your supply but the same plumber will as likely be paid by someone else in a couple of weeks to disconnect you and connect someone else in your stead.
Vast quantities of water are wasted through cut, broken and damaged pipes and the streams on the peninsula are all drying up because of the deforestation. There are theories afoot that tell of Freetown drying up in 2 or 3 years. It would be good to be able to say that the government is now taking a strong line on planning, forest protection and water conservation. It would be good but it would not be true!