Churches Partner to Combat River Pollution

Families bathe and wash clothes in the Taia River, near Taiama, Sierra Leone Source: United Methodist News

The Sierra Leone Council of Churches is lobbying the government to stop river pollution after discovering new health risk factors. The Jong River in Mattru Jong is vital to the economy of approximately 150,000 to 200,000 people.

The debris along the river, according to Matthew Punga, a United Methodist teacher and fisherman, is ankle to knee-deep in some places. Commenting on the effect the debris is having on his profession and community, he said, “Some fish reside in deep holes close to the bank of the river. They are the ones we see floating dead because their homes have all been filled with debris or clay flowing down from the mines upstream. The tilapia are dying now. Their skins have developed spots.”

A lifelong resident of the area, Punga remarked that the river used to be a source of drinking water. However, the pollution has not only made the water undrinkable but also created a severe shortage of drinking water in many rural communities.

This has resulted in villagers using chlorine to purify water prior to drinking the water which leads to high levels of chlorine consumption posing health risks. Additionally, mining in rivertowns has resulted in toxic waste used in the mining process being dumped into the river damaging the river bed.

Thomas Gbappy, paramount chief of the Kori Chiefdom and a United Methodist said, “The situation of the river is worrisome. The color of the river has deteriorated so badly; it is now brown. Even the birds that fish in the river have disappeared. My people can no longer drink from the Taia River.”

In Matru Jong, town chief Edna Tucker said, “I have received messages from Banta Mokele of how the fish are dying. Some people were admitted at the hospital. I am happy that you are here to find out about the pollution of the Jong River.”

River advocacy has been complicated by the fact that many villages have mining as their primary source of income..

“Some of our people collaborate with the mining companies that put the dredges into the rivers,” said Masakama Kanamanka III, paramount chief of Kholifa Rowala Chiefdom in the Tonkolili District in northern Sierra Leone.

During the Council of Churches meeting with government officials, they shared testimonies of residents, the result of fact-finding missions, and requested assistance in designating alternative sites for dumping waste.

Source: United Methodist News