By: Augustine N. Myers – If everything goes as planned, the provincial capital of Grand Cape Mount county, Robertsport City is expected to benefit from the provision of treated water for hundreds of residents who presently lack access to safe drinking water and better sanitation facilities.
The quick impact intervention is estimated at 15 thousand United States dollars, and is expected to be completed by February 15, 2013.
The intervention is under the Liberia Municipal Water Project sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Tetra Tech, a firm hired to implement the project and the Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation (LWSC), executing agency for the government of Liberia.
The exercise is intended to bring relieve to the residents ahead of Liberia’s 166th Independence celebrations on July 26, as Robertsport in Grand Cape Mount county is one of the two cities selected for the official celebrations alongside Tubmanburg in Bomi county.
The exercise is also part of a long range plan to provide safe drinking water to three provincial capital cities, mainly Robertsport, Sanniquella and Voinjama in Grand Cape Mount, Nimba and Lofa counties respectively.
With an estimated funding of 10.5 million United States dollars from USAID, the Liberia Municipal Water Project (LMWP) is said to be supporting the design, tendering, execution and operation of improved water supply infrastructure improvements in the three provincial capital cities. Plans are still underway.
Robertsport as one of the cities is lucky if not blessed to be the first expected to benefit especially through a fast track process.
Observers believe that the quick impact intervention in Robertsport is due to the pending July 26th Independence celebration in the city, while others hold the view that it followed a recent assessment of the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia uncovering the serious water and sanitation problems in the city.
But at a Stakeholders Meeting in Robertsport on Friday, January 18, 2013 it was disclosed by the Managing Director of the Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation, Charles Allen that the intervention was as a result of an appeal by Grand Cape Mount Superintendent, Mohammed Passawe in December of 2012.
He said the county authority appealed for urgent intervention to address the serious water problem in the city, something that led to an assessment by government and partners, verifying the lack of treated water sources in the Robertsport.
Mr. Allen said the Fasa creek in Robertsport, once used by UNMIL as a treated water plant will be revitalized through the quick impact intervention, and that the water will be sold for five Liberian dollars for a 5-gallon container. A 5-gallon container of untreated water is presently sold for twenty Liberian dollars in Robertsport city.
The LWSC Managing Director pointed out that the water will be purified, and that the residents will be trained to ably manage and maintain the project.
According to him, the five Liberian dollars for a 5-gallon container is designed to ensure local ownership and sustainability of the project.
USAID’s Liberia Municipal Water Project Chief of Party, Alioune Fall also speaking during the Stakeholders Meeting said Tetra Tech provides options for sustainable water services that seek to ensure the availability of safe drinking water to Robertsport for a long time.
He named the capacity of the locals to pay for the services and their ability to fully manage and sustain the project as two key issues, stressing that the improved water systems will provide public health and economic benefits.
Mr. Fall called on residents of Robertsport to remain supportive of development initiatives, and make use of the improved water services when they are been provided.
He said the Liberia Municipal Water Project is a 4-year project funded by USAID from 2011 to September 2015, to basically support the rehabilitation and development of improved water systems in Sanniquellie, Voinjama and Robertsport cities.
According to Mr. Fall, the three cities were selected based on consultation with the Liberian government where there are priorities for water systems development.
He said the goal of the Liberia Municipal Water Project is to help establish improved water supply access in each city with infrastructure managed by locally based entities capable of financially and technically sustaining the service, after the 4-year project period.
Grand Cape Mount County Superintendent, Mohammed Passawe expressed gratitude on behalf of his people, and said the project is very crucial to the health needs and survival of residents of Robertsport.
He said the sale of untreated water in Robertsport will be banned, following the completion of the improved water project.
Superintendent Passawe described the project as a great relieve for the people, and promised that the county authority will ensure that the treated water will be affordable and accessible across Robertsport city.
The Stakeholders Meeting in Robertsport was attended by dignitaries from the government, USAID, Tetra Tech, Liberia Municipal Water Project, the County Authority, City Council Government of Robertsport, local Steering Committee on the Liberia Municipal Water Project, other citizens of the county and some members of the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia including the Liberia Broadcasting System, UNMIL Radio, West African Democracy Radio, Daily Observer News Paper and the Inquirer News Paper.
A Memorandum of Understanding was earlier presented through power point, and copies were left with the local Steering Committee for perusal and inputs, pending finalization and official signing leading to the commencement of the project.
At the close of the program, members of the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia were invited by an elderly woman, Ma Zoe Jah to have a look of the untreated water they are using at their various homes.
“We are really suffering here for good water and it is only by the grace of the Almighty God we are surviving”, Ma Zoe told WASH journalists.
“For me and others, we take water from a far-away creek called Jangrabranch, named after an old lady who used to live near the creek long, long ago” Ma Zoe asserted. She maintained that the issue of safe drinking water is a serious problem in Robertsport.
According to her, there was also a serious problem with latrine facilities because most of the people do not have toilets. “Most of the people here, especially the children just pupu anywhere because toilet business is not easy, only few of us have toilets and can’t serve everyone because the people are plenty”, Ma Zoe pointed out.
She said it was a good thing for the government and partners to help Robertsport with safe drinking water, but appealed for the construction of latrine facilities as-well in the city to stop open defecation.
The quick impact improved water intervention project in Robertsport is welcoming, and it is hoped that it will address the issue of access to safe drinking water in that provincial capital, and not only for the July 26th Independence celebrations, but beyond.