By Steven Bockarie Mansaray in Kabala
Residents of the northern headquarter town of Kabala in the Koinadugu district have lamented the return of darkness to most parts of the township after government-installed solar lights on Makeni Road, Sedikie Street and Yogomaia all went dead.
The facilities were said to have been hit and destroyed by lightning in June, leaving in its wake fear among people living in the vicinity and who had alleged that the poles had no protection from such shocks as thunder and lightning.
Abdulai Jalloh, a resident, told Politico that if serious attention was not paid to the solar project, Kabala would eventually go back to "its old dark days".
“Even the poles that were installed in public places a good number of them have gone off,” he said.
Tenneh Conteh, a student living along Makeni Road said they were used to studying under the street poles but that with the light gone their studies had been made difficult.
“We also sometimes played when the street lights were on but we no longer have time to play at night” she said.
During the installation of the street poles last year the India consultant, Haroun Ghairul Kumar, who spearheaded the solar light project, told Politico that local technicians would be trained to maintenance them which apparently did not happen.
Meanwhile, since the installation nearly a year ago the technicians have visited Kabala only once and they were not based in Kabala. Some residents of the township, especially in the affected areas, appealed to the authorities concerned to come to their aid.
Chief Administrator of Koinadugu District Council, Sahr Emmanuel Yambasu said the company was planning to train technicians who would be based in Kabala. He said the Indian company had asked the district council to take up the maintenance cost of the street lights.
“But the council don’t have budget for that at the moment, especially so when most of the funds coming to the council at the moment are directed towards the fight against Ebola. The council intends to engage the authorities of the company to discuss the sustainability aspect of the solar light project,” Yambasu said.
A youth leader, Totor Sesay, who lives in Yogomaia section, said the people of Kabala had shown huge respect for the street lights project because no batteries or solar plates were damaged or stolen since they were installed last year.
“Compare the street solar lights project in other parts of the country where reports are that people are stealing the batteries and solar panels”, he said, adding that they had returned to using Chinese made lanterns because they didn’t hope to get supply from the national grid in the near future.
The power house in Kabala stopped working decades ago and was only left with some old machines in the derelict and ever deteriorating building.
(C) Politico 19/08/14