Perhaps, the most cheering moves by the present administration in the last three years in the water sector is the renewed interest to save the drying Lake Chad.
The Nigeria ministry of water resources, which kicked started the campaign to save the shrinking Lake on behalf of the Heads and Governments of Lake Chad Basin Commission, organised an international Conference in Abuja early last year to create global awareness on the socio-economic and environmental challenges arising from the shrinkage of the Lake Chad, which are causing threats and inducing insecurity.
Experts at the conference, including the United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) agreed with the position of the Federal Government of Nigeria that it was time to find workable solution to recharge the drying Lake, which they said had depleted from its original size.
Our Agric Editor, who was part of the conference, had captured the fears of many participants that the lives of people and natural resources in Northern Nigeria and the other African countries that rely on Lake Chad for survival are under threat because of the shrinkage of the Lake
Peoples of Chad, Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria are said to be heavily reliant on the drying Chad and its continued shrinkage had displaced many families from their livelihoods, which experts at the event said was the root cause of the insecurity in the areas.
Experts including Nigeria’s water resources minister, Engnr. Suleiman Adamu, said the water level and size of the Lake has shrunk by about 90 per cent of what it was in the 1960s.
It was reported that its surface area has decreased from a peak of 25,000 square kilometers to about 2,500 square kilometres today and the consequence of this is declining in the fish production, which is one of the means of livelihood of the populace in the region.
One of the workable solutions suggested at the conference was to transfer water from the Congo Basin to the Lake Chad Basin, which Nigeria’s water minister says is technically feasible based on earlier studies conducted by a Chinese company, POWERCHINA.
What has the campaign yielded so far?
Experts agreed that transferring water from Congo Basin down to the Lake Chad is a herculean task that requires huge money and time and thus its impact cannot be felt immediately.
Engineer Tayo Suru, told Daily Trust that it involves series of feasibility and technical studies that can take years, adding that apart from that, ‘’There are lots of issues including resettling those that will be displaced during the execution of the plan. It involves a lot of money that I don’t think the entire Africa can shoulder not to talk of one country, so it lots of things.’’
Hope rises recently, when the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, agreed to help raise 50 billion dollars for a project to help revive the drought-stricken Lake.
President Muhammad Buhari was said to have written to the UN scribe to co-chair the fundraising session with him and his acceptance response was delivered by the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina in Abuja.
With this many believe that if the current efforts to reclaim the lake are sustained or intensified, glory days lie ahead.
The water sector road map and how far is the journey?
Upon assumption of office, the minister of water resources, Engineer Suleiman Adamu, launched the water sector roadmap as a reference action plan.
Following the road map, the ministry said it completed seven dam projects in the last three years as part of efforts to address hindrances to all-year round agriculture in Nigeria.
Daily Trust reports that absence of irrigation facilities has been one of the major hindrances to all-year round agriculture in Nigeria in contrast to what is obtainable in other parts of the world.
The minister, Suleiman Adamu, said he inherited 116 major on-going and abandoned projects which included 38 irrigation and drainage projects, 37 dam projects and 41 water supply projects.
After prioritizing the viable ones, the minister said the ministry, under his stewardship, completed and commissioned Central Ogba Regional project in Bayelsa, Northern Ishan Regional water supply, rehabilitation of Ojirami Dam water supply project both in Edo, Sabke, Dutse and Mashi water supply projects in Katsina. Others are Takum water supply project in Taraba, rehabilitation of Kargo dam, Jaji in Kaduna State.
The minister said Kashimbila Dam in Taraba, Ogwashi-Uku dam in Delta, Shagari Irrigation project in Sokoto, Galma dam in Kano and Ekeremor water supply project in Edo are all ready for commissioning. Others that are ready for commissioning include Mangu water supply project in Plateau State as well as Federal University of Agriculture, Markudi water supply project in Benue State among others.
To attain universal access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation in rural areas, the minister informed that the ministry in collaboration with state governments and other developed partners in 2016 launched the Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH), which he said was aimed at attracting more investment in the provision of water supply and sanitation particularly in the rural areas.
Areas where the ministry must look into
A water expert and public affairs analyst, Mr Toyin Ajayi, recently, observed that the difficulties being faced in accessing potable water in many parts of the country means that the state and local governments have failed in the responsibility of providing portable water for the public.
But the water minister said it was the sole duty of the state and the local governments, as the case may be, to provide portable water in their respective areas.
He said the federal government was to provide policy frame work for this to happen and intervene where deemed necessary.
But Mr. Ajayi warned that if the federal government did not intervene, the problem would continue to linger on as the states had proven to be incapable of carrying this responsibility over a long period of time.
Also, watchers in the sector believe that the ministry had not done much in re-positioning the nation’s irrigable sites as dry season farming is still not feasible in many parts of the country owing to non-functioning of the nation’s dams.
Another area where much of the ministry’s efforts have not been feasible is the current campaign to end open defecation in the country.
Water Resources minister himself had admitted that the country is ranked second world-wide behind India among countries still practicing open defecation despite various talks and workshops geared towards reducing the trend.
The ministry was also said not to be doing enough in checking the indiscriminate digging of boreholes currently going on in all parts of the country.
Some are partly attributing the tremor being experienced in some parts of the country to activities of the borehole drillers, which must be put under check.
But minister of water resources, Suleiman Adamu, insisted that there was little the ministry could do in that regard as the National Water Bill, which will among other things, empowers the ministry to regulate such activities are yet to be passed by the National Assembly.