Water is life, says a maxim. However, getting safe and clean water in developing countries, including Nigeria, has always been a serious challenge.
This is because many people still rely on rivers and streams, which mostly dry up few months after the rainy season, for their daily water needs, according to observers.
There have been several attempts to address the challenge of expanding the people’s access to potable water and one of such efforts culminated in a stakeholders’ meeting that was organised in Abuja on Feb. 19 this year.
The meeting, among other things, assessed the extent of water shortage and its causes across the states, while recommending action plans for sustainable water supply schemes.
The water supply challenges facing the people in some areas of the country have been somewhat grave.
In Yobe state, for instance, media reports indicated that various state administrations in the last 20 years had attempted to provide potable water to the citizens; all to no avail.
Some of the reports noted that residents of some villages in the state, particularly those close to the Nigeria-Niger border, suffered untold hardship in their search for drinkable water.
A report specifically said that until recently, the Gumshi community in Yusufari Local Government engaged in trade by barter in their quest for potable water, exchanging materials such as firewood for water.
All the same, the state government in 2010 made substantial efforts to solve the problem by constructing a 25-km water-reticulation pipeline from Dumar to Gumshi to ensure water supply to the area.
The project is one of the several water projects being executed by the government to enhance water supply in the state.
Alhaji Sidi Karasuwa, the Commissioner for Water Resources, assured the citizens of the government’s determination to tackle the water supply problems facing them.
“It is a fact that the geographical location of Yobe state, among other natural factors, has made provision of water quite challenging.
“This administration has resolved to face the age-long challenges and difficulties; we want to make water available to the people in all the rural areas and urban centres,’’ he said.
Karasuwa noted the government had sunk 300 wells and 506 boreholes, worth about N3 billion, in various rural communities across the state.
Alhaji Muhammad Bukar, the General Manager, Yobe Rural Water Supply Agency, said that the state government, in collaboration with development partners such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), EU and UNICEF had drilled several boreholes across the state in the last four years.
He pledged that the agency would strive to maintain the existing boreholes for the maximum use of the rural communities.
In spite of these efforts, observers note that residents of Damaturu, the state capital, still experience water scarcity, owing to the ever-growing population of the city.
Confirming such views, Alhaji Abdullahi Usman, a resident of Damaturu, said: “We are at the mercy of water vendors (Mairuwa); I expend about N300 daily to buy water.
“The available water is not safe due to problems associated with open defecation and flood in some parts of the city,’’ he added.
Sharing similar sentiments, Alhaji Aliyu Kareem, a resident of the Ali Marami neighbourhood of Damaturu, said that even though there was intermittent water supply from the state’s water board, he had been buying water from water vendors every day.
As part of efforts to address such situations, Karasuwa said that the government had taken over the N3.6 billion Damaturu regional water scheme from the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.
He recalled that contract for the project was initially awarded in 2005, adding that the project was supposed to be jointly sponsored by the federal and state governments on a 50:50 ratio basis.
The commissioner stressed that the project was abandoned in 2007 after the Federal Government injected N1.8 billion into it without a corresponding commitment by the then state government.
Karasuwa, nonetheless, said that the Gaidam-administration in 2011 entered into an agreement with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources; took over the project and re-awarded its contract at the cost of N1.1 billion.
He said the state government had paid 60 per cent of the contract sum of the project, which was expected to be completed in October, with a pledge to fully fulfill all its financial obligations to enable the contractors to complete the project on schedule.
The commissioner expressed the readiness of the state government to take over and complete other abandoned federal water projects in Nguru, Potiskum and Fika.
Karasuwa said that some boreholes have been constructed in these areas, while works on the six million-litre water reservoir in another part of the state had reached an advanced stage of completion.
“These projects were abandoned but Yobe government is prepared to take over and complete these projects to address the water problems facing our people,’’ he said.
Nevertheless, Karasuwa called for legislation on water policy, stating specifically the roles of Federal Government in the construction of dams and development of river basins for agricultural development.
All the same, observers commend the state government for its efforts to tackle the water supply challenges facing the residents of the state frontally.
They, nonetheless, expressed the hope that the water projects would be completed within the stipulated periods.
For instance, Habu Yawalle, a resident of Damaturu, said: “With safe and clean water provided by this government, the people will be free from the menace of water-borne diseases.
“This will drastically reduce the money which the people and the government spend on healthcare.’’
Analysts, however, bemoan the duplication of efforts by the federal, state and local governments with regard to the drilling of boreholes and the construction of hand-pumped wells across the country.
They note that the development has engendered the proliferation of abandoned water projects across the country.
They, nonetheless, underscore the need to complete all the projects, saying that tangible efforts should be made to provide clean and safe water for the citizens. (NAN Features)