#Bring back our drinking water

Sat Jan 1st, 2022 - Abia

Even the most optimistic observer of Nigeria’s sorry nationhood would be absolutely gutted by the video published on SaharaReporters’ website recently showing members of the Lanka community in Kwara State competing with cattle and dogs to drink from a dirty pond. Actually, this is a nationwide spectacle. As I write, there is palpable unease in Enugu metropolis as distraught residents enact desperate measures to get water: some now visit big hotels and banks to defecate. The logic is simple: go to a bank/hotel, then request to visit the conveniences. After all, as a Yoruba proverb says, if the water at one’s disposal is not enough, one simply washes one’s face and leaves a bath out of the equation. (Bi omi eni o ba to ‘ni we, a ma n fi boju ni). The Igbo say that if a person does not chew water, he does not know that water has bones. Enugu people, like their counterparts across the country, know that water has bones: they know what it means to contend with hardship.

A bath, for many, is now reportedly once in three or four days: spending N400 everyday on two bags of sachet water for this daily need has taken its toll. It is the dry season and the wells have stopped pouring water. Enugu is not really a good place to drill for water as there aren’t many rocks that can store and release water in abundance (aquifers). When many dig wells, it is coal that stares them in the face. Many depend on water tanks as drilling boreholes is prohibitively expensive, but the tanks have vanished.

To say the least, the water situation in the country is a scandal. The internet is suffused with pictures and videos of Nigerians drinking water from insanitary, indeed subhuman, sources. But their oppressors wash their hands in choice wine. Millions of Nigerians, stripped of the most basic human dignities, live like the hordes of Barbarians in ancient Gaul. They are mere statistics in government documents, far removed from comfort of any kind, the so-called “dividends of democracy.”

The water story is a tale of political terror: Nigeria is richly endowed with water resources and in fact boasts of a number of states parading aquatic names: Niger, Rivers, Delta, Cross River, Benue, Osun and Ogun. It has some 215 cubic kilometres of available surface water per year. By contrast, South Africa has only about 49 cubic kilometres a year. The problem, as Samuel.T. Coleridge wrote in the Rime of the ancient Mariner in 1798, is that there is water everywhere but not “a drop to drink.” Will Nigeria’s vast water resources ever serve Nigerians?

In 2020, Nigeria’s Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, said access to public water supply declined from 32 per cent in 1990 to less than 7 per cent in 2015, with marginal improvements since then. Sixty per cent of Kano’s large population reportedly have no access to potable water, and, as we can expect, only 10,000 Enugu residents reportedly enjoy potable water. It is doubtful that there has been any potable water supply in Abia State since 2007. The Centre of Excellence, a model for many states, needs 540 million gallons of water on a daily basis but produces only 210 million gallons, in large part because of the damage done to the facilities of the Lagos State Water Corporation by construction projects.

State ministries of water exist. They are heavily staffed but useless. They produce no water but guzzle public funds, flushing billions of naira in the drain on a monthly basis. It is distressing that whereas water was available under the often discredited and despised military government, democracy has come with the institutionalization of thirst, open defecation and other appurtenances of water scarcity. There is a generation of Nigerians today who know next to nothing about fetching water from public taps. They only know about boreholes and wells. Gradually, the provision of potable water, a core duty of governments all over the world, is receding from our national imagination and boreholes, which were few and far between as late as the early 90s, are now being built with reckless abandon, upsetting the balance of our earth. Instead of seeking to make the public waterworks and taps work again, officials at the state ministries are content with extorting money from borehole providers and helping to facilitate the sachet water businesses owned by unscrupulous political office-holders!

Enough of the excuses: the United Arab Emirates, a destination on the priority list of many Nigerian politicians, is a desert but its government produces water in abundance: its people are not the “suffering and smiling” type that Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Africa’s greatest music talent, saw within the blaze of his marijuana fire. There are two water sources in the UAE: desalinated seawater, which serves the population’s drinking needs, and groundwater, which serves agricultural purposes. The seawater desalination seawater desalination plants in Abu Dhabi owned are the product of a public private partnership arrangement. Their energy is supplied by fossil fuels. But here’s the real deal: a Dubai farm makes water from sunlight and air. Sounds exotic, doesn’t it? The water farm is run by SOURCE Global, a US company, and uses special hydro panels to trap humid air, which is then converted into liquids. This is clear evidence that the UAE is not content with the traditional methods of providing water in areas where it’s in short supply: mineralizing rivers, desalinating oceans and drilling into the ground. In June this year, it emerged that with temperatures at 50 degrees Celsius, Dubai was creating its own rain using drones that flew into clouds and unleashed electrical charges. Precipitation was enhanced by cloud seeding to increase condensation and increase the likelihood of a downpour. Why can’t Nigeria tap from Dubai’s anointing?

So here’s my charge: let the public taps run this year. Let state governors enter into PPP arrangements and provide water for the long-suffering populace. It’s not a democracy when the people have no water to drink. Please #Bring back our drinking water.




source: Tribune