An Act of Parliament established the National Water Resources Management Agency (NWRMA) in 2017. The Agency is responsible for managing and protecting water resources, granting water rights among competing users, formulating regulatory measures, and collecting and sharing hydrological data, with the view to maintaining the water table and controlling water pollution. The water resources include inland (both surface and groundwater), transboundary and the international territorial water resource in Sierra Leone.
It's no gain saying that water insecurity is a global and sustainable challenge mainly caused by climate impacts and anthropogenic (human) activities: unplanned urbanisation, unregulated agricultural activities, mining, and deforestation, to name a few. Exacerbating the problem has been the absence of an enabling environment for regulating these activities.
On the international stage, the right to water has been a concept in many international conventions such as The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Convention on the Right of the Child, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities etc. to which nations commit themselves. Water has also been exemplified in the Sustainable Development Goal six (6), referring to access to clean water and sanitation with a target to succeed by 2030.
In the past two decades in Sierra Leone, water insecurity has been one of the greatest threats to human existence owing to limited availability and thus limited supply of water. To change the trajectory, Sierra Leone has joined the international community in the fight against water insecurity by developing institutional and legal frameworks.
Parliament has certified the maturity of four water Regulations, namely: the Water Use and Catchment Regulations, Water Pollution (Control) Regulations, Groundwater Development and Protection Regulations, and Dam Safety Regulations, which will go a long way in boosting water resources management in Sierra Leone, after a twenty-one-day tabling schedule in the well of Parliament, a requirement provided for under Chapter XII Section 170(7) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.
The Regulations were put together by an independent firm, with support from the United Nations Development Programme, after a rigid nationwide consultation with various players in the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH), local authorities, water users etc. with the sole aim of gathering information from the public as to the most efficient recommendations for the development of the law on water resources management.
The Water Use and Catchment Regulations will focus on appropriately protecting the country's surface water and catchments, and its responsible abstraction, through issuing a water use permit. The Groundwater Development and Protection Regulations will focus on appropriately protecting groundwater sources, especially for borehole/well construction, by giving a borehole/well drilling license. The Dam Safety Regulations seeks to make dam construction and management safe by awarding a dam safety license. The fourth Regulation- the Water Pollution Control Regulations, aims to reduce pollution rates of Sierra Leone’s water resources through the grant of a pollution control license. All these Regulations primarily focus on how the country can use the water resources to enhance its economic potential. They will further protect current and future generations from what would be referred to as water insecurity and its associated feedback.
In presenting the Regulations to lawmakers for consideration, the Minister of Water Resources, Ing. Philip Karimu Lansana, emphasised that Sierra Leone is at a crossroads to take a significant step in developing the water resources management protection law. The Minister further accentuated that approval of the regulations by Parliament will go a long way to address the country’s perennial water issues.
In an exclusive interview, the Director-General for the Agency, Junisa Patrick Bangali Esq, stated that the misuse of water resources with impunity will now be a thing of the past. He further said that the certification of maturity by Parliament of these Regulations would aid the Agency in clamping down on watershed/catchment degradation and illegal abstraction of water resources. He, therefore, calls on the general public to comply with these Regulations accordingly.
In the coming days, the Regulations will be disseminated to different parts of the country for proper understanding and thus aid compliance, which is the ultimate goal of the legal framework.