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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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The devastating floods in Gambia last week were natural phenomenon

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By Samsudeen Sarr

I needed to conduct a tour of Banjul this morning, August 9, 2022, to get a first class knowledge of the massive controversial flood of the city last week. Of course I have been throughout cognizant of the unprecedented amount of rainfall that submerged many areas never affected in The Gambia and even in Senegal which indeed caught many honest observers by surprise. It was a tropical storm reminiscent of one from a weakened hurricane.
The first place I visited was the Bond Road pump house where two new powerful centrifugal or submersible pumps were installed to replace the weaker old ones. Momodou Mustapha Bah, a very kind NAWEC worker who has been working in the facility for 17 years took me around and explained everything I needed to know. To confirm that the disaster was more about mother nature than anything else, Mr. Momodou Mustapha Bah, explained how since the installation of the old pumps were done years ago they had functioned efficiently at a discharge capacity of only 45 KV which had handled any volume of flow in previous raining seasons. And these were NAWEC pumps and not part of any contract to fix the drainage system of Banjul. However, three more new submersible pumps with 75 KV capacity were quickly purchased and installed by Haddim Gai’s Company to pump out the estimated 600 million liters of rain water that fell in Banjul alone. Bah assured me that since the arrival of the new pumps the float level from the reservoir had rapidly dropped to 7 cm yesterday and to 12 cm today. NAWEC has also increased the capacity of the transformer that supplies the electricity from 100 KVA to 250 KVA, enough to handle both pumps running simultaneously. There is also a 150 KVA standby generator in case of power failure but plans are underway to get a 250 KVA one for maximum output. Excellent job!
From Bond Road driving towards Boxbar Road where the Banjul Sewage pumping house is located, Gambian soldiers were seen actively filling and distributing enough sandbags from Crab Island School area to homes and streets still affected by pools of water. Kudos to The Gambia Armed Forces!
I met Mr. Dodou Faal on the way, a dynamic APRC Banjul militant who briefly showed me an overfilled but opened sewage channel by New Primet Street holding stagnant liquid that usually empties at the sewage-pumping house.
Anyway it was at the Boxbar Road sewage pumping house where the whole Banjul flooding emanated. The only two NAWEC pumps that could have easily pumped out the stagnant water were both out of service for a long time and were not perhaps considered important for obvious reasons. Apparently, the two pumps at Bond Road had adequately done the job for Banjul throughout these years but on normal seasonal downpours.
Mr. Abdou Bah, the NAWEC supervisor, in charge of the Boxbar station and Azis Dabakhs Gaye, Counselor for Banjul North Ward, took me around and showed me the newly purchased sewage-ejector pumps from Germany by, again, contractor Haddim Gai’s company. One of Mr. Gai’s field supervisors called Mr. Abdou Jane delivered the German KAB Sewatec pumps with 25.95 horsepower motors and pumping capacities of 1329 liters per minute. I know the capability and durability of such pumps because I used to work on them for fifteen years at my company called Frontline Industries, in the USA. The two sewage ejector pumps with 75 KV capacity if synchronized with those at Bond Road will indeed pump the whole of Banjul dry to the last grain of soil. They were being installed when I left the place at 1:00 p.m.
I am in fact told that if the drainage system in Banjul was not satisfactorily rehabilitated to the perfection everybody was talking about before the flood, the whole city would have been underwater from the heavy rain. Indeed, before the flood,Gambians were heard everywhere commending the contractor for the formidable transformation and rehabilitation of the city drainage system with almost all slipways, culverts, and sewer tunnels cleaned and covered with premium concrete. I have heard many Banjulians and the president in particular extolling the fantastic job done by the contractor now being vilified for the natural calamity he has nothing to do with.
I was in New Jersey in October 2012 when hurricane sandy hit the tristate areas of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, submerging the subways, destroying power transformers, bringing down solid buildings and trees, rendering people homeless and denying the majority of us electricity for a whole week or more. Over 70 billion dollars of damage was inflicted from Sandy’s punch regardless of the perfect drainage and sewage systems constructed all over the cities. No knucklehead came out to blame the Obama government, governor Chris Christy or any contractor for the natural disaster. It was all about nature, period.
We therefore need to think of solutions for such states of emergency and refrain from politicizing them with limited understanding of what we are arguing about.
The gullible lame person may consider it sophisticated when bias critics lace their misinformation and mischaracterization of such incidents in flowery languages; but the facts remain that when you don’t know, you just don’t know. To bamboozle the masses into believing that hydraulic pumps that are exclusively manufactured to convert mechanical energy into hydraulic energy for excavators, cranes, loaders, graders, etcetera were the missing pumps in Banjul that caused the flood illustrates that person’s disingenuousness or elementary knowledge of pumps.
It is centrifugal pumps that apply mechanical devices to move fluid by means of rotational energy from one or more rotors, called impeller. And contrary to the assertion that they were not available during the flood, Banjul had two good 45 KV ones at the Bond Road pumping station for average rainfall.
Besides, when President Barrow pledged 70 million dalasis or dollars to finally sort out the drainage and sewage problem of the country I believe he was referring to the whole nation affected by the devastating flood and not to Banjul alone. The obstructed Kotu-Abuko waterway equally caused huge flooding in houses, residential and commercial structures where there are no standby centrifugal pumps or any reliable remedial measures. I don’t even know why the president didn’t declare a state of emergency to qualify The Gambia for foreign assistance and negotiated debt reductions or foreign-loan-payment rescheduling?
I don’t want to go into the nitty gritty matters of how contracts are allocated to contractors by government; but the idea of government doing so has nothing to do with the devastating tropical rain that submerged some parts of Banjul, Kombo Saint Mary Division and certain provincial towns and villages last week. More downpours are expected in the month of August.
Let us also remember that global warming, climate change, rising sea levels are causing irreparable damages to nations throughout the world of which the island of Banjul is not spared. Perhaps we should begin to consider a better place than the small island of Banjul to build a new city like most countries do when confronted with such natural problems.

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