By: Kebba AF Touray
The Public Enterprises Committee (PEC) of the Gambia National Assembly, on Wednesday, 8 November 2023 held public hearings in Banjul and Jeshwang on water service delivery in the Greater Banjul Area (GBA) by the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC).
NAWEC is responsible for supplying the residents with water, but the utility company, according to people, has not been able to serve as expected.
The public hearings, supported by the International Republican Institute (IRI), brought together stakeholders from the media, civil society organisations, representatives of the Banjul City Council and the community of Banjul, to discuss issues such as reliable water supply, quality of water supply, frequency in water supply, affordable and availability of water supply by NAWEC.
The consumers from Banjul and Jeshwang lamented the challenges they face trying to fetch water. The complaints range from insufficient water supply and low water pressure among others. The people complained that they get water supply either late in night or in early hours of morning.
In Jeshwang, the people complained about the change of water colour to red. They also challenged NAWEC to ensure that these challenges that confront them are put to rest to ensure that the people access water supply without facing impediments.
The NAWEC officials informed the convergence that the water that the company supplies the people is of quality but stressed that during their visit to some households, they discovered that some people stationed their meters in their toilet rooms. NAWEC officials said they are not responsible for that because a meter should not be placed near a toilet.
On the issue of water shortage, the officials admitted that they have a constraint which they attributed to a lack of adequate capacity. The NAWEC officials said they have put in place efforts to mitigate the problem.
On the menace of burst water pipes, NAWEC officials admitted its occurrence sometimes and stated that it is the responsibility of the national company to ensure that when it happens they respond swiftly. However, the officials said they have challenges in addressing problems of burst pipes, especially in Banjul where there are concrete roads and difficult to excavate to reach the pipes.
The officials denied the allegations that NAWEC charges extra on people’s bills when pipes burst. They said people are charged according to what they consumed from the meter reading.
On the pressure of meeting the demand for water supply, the officials said the demand is high and the national company is striving to meet the demand needs. They also said they would drill boreholes, too.
They said: “The first task given to NAWEC is to ensure supply of quality water to the public, but PURA is mandated to verify whether or not the water that we supply is of quality. They did their analyses and confirmed that the water that we supply is of quality and has met World Health Organization standards and guidelines”.
They called on the people to verify with NAWEC when they felt that the bills they received had issues. They said “For any faulty meter it is our responsibility to replace it and at the moment we have ordered 15,000 meters to replace the meters that are not working. Before our order, we detected that the meters that are not working are up to 15,000 but we added an extra 2000 meters to ensure that the meters that are faulty in between are replaced”.
Some people said they don’t get their bills monthly, but the NAWEC officials encouraged people to go to the NAWEC branches to make inquiries in case they don’t get their bills.
“Anytime you don’t see your bills you can go to any branch and we will print the bill for the customer to make his or her payment,” the utility company advises.
They also stated that they are looking at how they can source water for Bundung from elsewhere and that they have internally drilled new boreholes in Nemasu. They are trying to equip and connect that borehole to Serrekunda. This way they said they will be able to increase the capacity and that will support both Banjul and Bundung.
The officials also promised the audience that the company has taken steps to address the issue of low water pressure with the promise that the issue will be addressed.
The people also asked NAWEC the reason for decommissioning the water tank in Bakau, the officials stated that the reason came following their realization that it contains a lot of nitrate which they tried to reduce to the required standards, but they realized that they could not attain it. That was why they resorted to decommissioning the tank.
On the red colour of the water, NAWEC officials explained that happens if the meter connection has been there for a long time or the head of the tap is worn out and rotten.