Residents in Segbeya, Makonie, Dalakru, Makakale, Dandala and Gbafaya villages among the seven villages that surrounds Lake Sonfon in the Diang chiefdom, Koinadugu district are lack pure drinking water, health care centre and good roads to link them with the chiefdom headquarter, Konibaya.
On a Monday morning while children in big towns and cities in the country are preparing for schools, over hundred children between ages 10 to 19 in communities around Lake Sonfon left to look after themselves as their parents go in the bushes in search of food. School is not a part of their lives and their daily chores apart from baby-seating each other, include fetching fire wood, scare birds from farm swamps and fetch water from nearby streams that run into Lake Sonfon.
Their future, according to Brima Jalloh, Chairman of the Coalition for Civil Society Organisation for Peace and Development (CSOPaD) is blink and warns of dire future consequences I measures are not taken to remedy the situation. He said his coalition will engage government through the Koinadugu District Council for the construction of a primary school in ensuring that children in that part of the country enjoy their rights to education.
Mamoud Turay in Gbafaya village expressed his frustration over government’s ineptitude in providing good roads, schools, accessible medical facilities, pure drinking water and housing for them. He said even though the lake Sonfon environ is declared a tourist site, the road to the lake is nothing to write home about given its hilly and rough terrain.
The Chief of Segbeya village Manju Turay said their only source of water has been water coming from underneath hills near one of the seventeen rivers that feed into Lake Sonfon which, he said has recently been tampered with by a mining company operating along one of the river banks. He said the water source has been polluted by oil and other pollutants emitted by the heavy machines used by the mining company.
Manju Turay said they have to treks on foot or use commercial bikes over 5 miles to access the only peripheral health unit at Yarah village also about 15 miles to the chiefdom headquarter.
Umaro Jalloh elder from Segbeya village said their children are not going to school because there is no school in their immediate surroundings. He said this worrying to them as the future of their children would be bleak if they are not exposed to formal education as education is key to human and community development.
Senior Environment Officer of Environmental Protection Agency Alhaji Alfred Tejan Jondie said before any mining activities in any community they conduct and Environmental Impact Assessment to ascertain whether operations of the company cannot in any way negatively impact on locals. He said all ecological areas are none mining areas so mining activities around the Lake and the rivers supplying water to it is illegal and punishable by law.
Headman for Makonie village Abu Black Sesay said accessing their village is difficult by cars and light vehicles with no pure drinking water, school for their children and distance health centre exposing his constituents to more diseases and Lack of major social facilities. He said his village is located below the lake with Dojo Mining company operating with no cooperate social responsibility to them as host community.
Mohamed Kamara from the National Mineral Agency small scale mining office said their office is not issuing licenses to miners near government reserved land because of their ecological and touristic important attacked to the country. He said most mining activities in those areas are illegal and that they have been performing joint raids operations with EPA and Biodiversity officials where a lot of arrest had been made.
Lake Sonfon is one of the country natural lake that depends on seventeen (17) rivers for it sustainability of which 7 hardly dry in all seasons including Dongudakelakru, Kuku, Kekefarana, Wassaila among other rivers, with a 6 miles Workadugu hills separating the Segbeya village with Makonie village. Mining operations around the lake has not been profitable for residents as it has also help in damaging the only safe water sources residents had been using for drinking and domestic purposes.
Mohamed Kamara said illicit miners are like drug dealers who operate on great risk than precaution pointing that there offices across the country are open for all legal licenses but most time citizens connived with foreigners to rub the nation. He said whosoever is arrested doing illegal mining activity in the country especially in reserved lands will be prosecute in the court of law.
By Mohamed Kabba
Wednesday June 25, 2014