By Usman Kamara
The deplorable condition of the Red Pump Road which is bumpy, stony, dusty and full of gaping pot holes continues to be the source of misery for its residents. They are incessantly charged high transport fares by the few motorists who ply the route that is avoided by most of the commercial transport vehicles as it is viewed to be of high risk to the cars and motor bikes.
Motorists especially bike riders often charge exorbitantly as an indemnity for any damage the road may cause to their vehicles.
Most of the over 3000 inhabitants of the community are workers, petty traders and students who commute daily to different parts of Freetown. The few vehicles that venture there are visibly hazards to road safety as they are old, rickety and hardly road worthy. They often break down along the route, and usually resulting in unnecessary traffic obstruction.
Red Pump is a sprawling suburb cresting Gwent Height valley and straddles the hill side down the banks of Ridging Water that gushes along the hill side settlements in the rainy season but virtually trickles in the dry season due to the constant dumping of huge piles of garbage, debris and other pollutants. A short distance off King Harman Road it is intersected by Riverside Drive and Cantonment Road at a road side garage littered with scores of disabled vehicles. The road narrows at the colonial foot bridge. Foot paths across the bridge lead to Wilberforce, Tengbeh Town, OAU village, etc.
Though it is naturally endowed with two (2) major sources of underground water usually accessed by surrounding communities during acute shortages of water but its source of misery has been the worsening condition of the Road.
The Red Pump settlement is of immense socio-economic significance. The offices of many INGOs which include CRS, Plan International, WHO and Concern Worldwide are all located at the Red Pump axis. It is a fact that the interventions of these entities might not necessarily involve road maintenance but the significance of their operations requires that their efforts should be complemented by the improvement of the road which can directly benefit the Red Pump Community. LAC’s Villa, a guest house and three (3) secondary schools which include the Lebanese International School and a leading primary school, Leone Preparatory School, are also there.
It is not unreasonable for one to assume that the operations of such high profile institutions there should positively impact on it even minimally as it is an economic fact that some benefits should accrue to the operational locations of firms and industries which is why in fact globally investment activities are directed at depressed communities to regenerate them.
The road which is of crucial importance to the residents whose quest for livelihood largely entails shuttling to different parts of Freetown has been neglected for far too long.
The petty traders who frequently go to Dove Cut market at Guard Street to buy their wares are charged high fares and they in turn shift the burden to the buyers at the household level. Some of the commuters evade the long queues especially in the morning rush hour and go to the ‘Bus Stop’ by China House to scramble for the downtown-bound vehicles or hire bikes to the same location for Le2,000, a distance for which riders used to charge half that amount before the outbreak of EBOLA.
An improved road condition will eventually result in lower transport fares as motorists will no longer have the excuse to charge exorbitantly on account of the deplorable condition of the road. It will also expedite vehicle and pedestrian movements especially the latter who motorists in their desperate quest for less bumpy parts of the road menacingly edge to the corners. Some people even sustain injuries in their hasty flight to safety.
As the route attracts road worthy vehicles the number of rickety vehicles plying there will diminish considerably as well as the risk to passenger safety.
There seems to be no succor for the residents from its local officials whose obligation to the electorates involve promotion of community welfare and who should have initiated a viable self help project to alleviate the plight of the residents in this regard. The various institutions located there are also obviously disinclined to assist probably in deference to their operating principles.
The last resort is therefore the state whose primary mandate is the provision of social services. Its organ responsible for infrastructural matters should therefore spearhead intervention efforts to reverse this negative with a clear focus on the socio-economic implications of upgrading the Red Pump Road primarily for bolstering the welfare of its residents and the institutions that operate there.
There might be a long term plan to improve the road as it is the shortest route from the King Harman Road axis to Wilberforce and beyond, but an immediate solution is urgently needed to alleviate the plight of the residents.
(C) Politico 04/05/16