Freetown, Baby!

Guma by jc2010sl
June 12, 2011, 3:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Days of sunshine are a rarity these days. When I woke up last Saturday to a nigh-on cloudless sky I decided this was probably the last chance for a forest walk before I head back. A friend and I headed down the beach road and parked just past one of the rickety bridges that cross the streams flowing from the peninsula forest. A three hour scramble up and across the hillside brought us to the Guma Valley Dam, the reservoir that serves most of Freetown.

It was constructed in the 1940s when the city housed just over a 100,000 souls. A far-sighted colonial bureaucrat reckoned on serious population expansion, so provided for more than double the need at the time. Unfortunately, he didn’t see far enough ahead – the dam is now woefully inadequate for a population estimated at 1.5 million and growing. Water shortages are particularly acute in the poorer east end – by the time the supply has worked its way through the city, there is barely any left.

The chronic lack of water is a huge problem, and one set to worsen if deforestation on the peninsula continues. The forest is critical to the peninsula’s micro-ecosystem – it prevents rainwater running straight off to the sea, and keeps the city cooler by absorbing less heat than bare rock or savanna would.

Driving home, we spot a spurt of water shooting into the road. Presumably it’s one of the many illegal taps from the main pipeline that’s been badly installed. Whatever the cause, these drops are too precious to waste.