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The task of regulating boreholes

But majority of Nigerians have attributed the craze for personal borehole to the complete failure of government to provide them safe and clean water.

As business seems to be booming for borehole drillers and operators, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources has raised the alarm on the danger of indiscriminate drilling of boreholes in the country saying the development could have devastating effects on the ecosystem.
The Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Reng Ochekpe said that the indiscriminate drilling of borehole may result in over abstraction of ground water, which effects include land subsidence, salt intrusion, aquifer depletion and water quality degradation amongst other environmental hazards.
“The construction of boreholes indiscriminately is capable of causing earth tremor, because underground water is linked, and if there is contamination in one borehole, it will contaminate other boreholes within the area with devastating effects on human health.
The government agrees that public water supply needs to be improved upon, even though budgetary provision is not enough to put in place all the necessary infrastructures to provide potable water. That is why government has initiated discussion with states and local governments to ensure adequate water supply to the citizens,” she added.
Just as the minister is warning, scientists have also warned that the culture of one man one borehole was having negative impact on the earth and can make the country susceptible to natural disasters among other possible dangerous outcomes.
Dr. Ade Akinyemi, a geoscientist, noted that the indiscriminate sinking of boreholes could make the earth unstable and susceptible to natural disasters that include earthquake.
He said, “Look at it this way.You have a piece of land made up of rock unit. You pierce it on this side and you also pierce it on the other side. I’m describing it in terms of a plot of land or half a plot. Let’s talk of earth tremor and earthquake. If you have a rock that is together and there is a shaking, the whole will shake together and it will give whatever is on it a kind of balance. But when this one is shaking and this other one is not responding because there is a disjoint, the impact on the things on the ground is higher.”
The practice of drilling boreholes for public water usage had existed before the eighties, but became prominent in Nigeria in the 1980s through government and international support agencies like UNICEF, UNDP, EU, DFID among others.
Since then there has been an astronomical increase in the number of wells and boreholes constructed, as over 60 percent of Nigerians depend on groundwater for their water supply for domestic, industrial or agricultural use.
The argument for the increase in the number of boreholes across the country remained the failure of government to provide water to the citizens, but experts are of the opinion that borehole or underground water as it is also called poses severe danger to users.
UNESCO had since warned against the use of borehole water for public water supply.
A recent World Water Day report noted that, “most of these boreholes are exposed to underground pathogens and pollutants especially E-coli that is responsible for stomach upset that comes with diarrhea and massive lose of fluids.
The report further found that borehole water might also be exposed to natural radionuclides and nature’s occurring hazardous metals (As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Hg, Mn, Ni, Pb, Sn, and Tl) these heavy metals as they are called are toxic with carcinogenic properties. Therefore it is highly recommended and intrinsic that water from the boreholes is sampled for laboratory analysis and bio-chemical analytical before consumption.”
Boreholes according to environmentalists could lead to landmines, earthquakes or tremor in the foreseeable future. It is easily contaminated by leaky contaminants, heavy metals and micro organisms. When pollutants spill, leak or are inadvertently dumped on the soil surface, they easily seep through the soil and pollute the aquifer – the layer of rock or clay holding groundwater.
For health experts, boreholes in areas of mining and oil drilling activities are the most vulnerable as Nigerians are not known to purify water from boreholes before consumption. Cases of toxicity arising from drinking untreated water from boreholes are rife.
James Agbo, a hydrogeologist, noted that the increasing number of boreholes was having diverse negative effects that are still unknown to many. “Any time you drill into the rock, whether you are looking for water or any other mineral, you fracture the rock. And some of these fractures can get to far distances. Now, if it is in an estate with buildings, the foundations of the building where the fracture will run through will be affected. The effect might not be noticeable initially but after sometime it will show.”
The argument that government failed to provide water hence the agitation by many to have their personal source of water seems to be wearing out following the non-utilisation of water in over 200 dams across the country.
Ochekpe said at the recent ministerial platform that states government have failed to use water stored in the over 200 dams constructed by the federal government across the country.
According to her resource constraint in terms of low budgetary allocation, inadequate and obsolete equipment and weak synergy between the federal government, states and local governments remained a major issue militating against access to water by Nigerians.
For now, the move by the federal government to regulate the indiscriminate drilling of boreholes in the country in view of its attendant health and environmental consequences may still remain a dream so long as the legislative instrument needed by the Nigeria Integrated Water Resources Management Commission to axe those drilling is lacking.


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