Water Still Scarce In South East

Potable water remains a leading scarce commodity in the south eastern part of Nigeria, according to a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

The zone comprises Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states.

The survey also reveals that some of the pipes being used in some of the states are as old as 50 years, compromising the purity of water as well as the health of people in the area.

Only recently, Chief Obadiah Ando, the Minister of Water Resources, gave an assurance that the Federal Government was committed to improving access to safe water in the area, following a nationwide assessment of safe water situation.

In Enugu, capital of Enugu State, only parts of Uwani, Abakpa, GRA, Idaw River and Achara Layout are served with drinking water from the Enugu State Water Board.

Areas such as Trans Ekulu, New Haven, Coal Camp and Independence Layout depend on  wells, boreholes and commercial operators.

There have been assurances from the board that Enugu Urban would soon start enjoying uninterrupted water supply, when ongoing water reticulation project, would have been completed.

Mr. Chima Nriji, Chief Public Relations Officer of the corporation, said the World Bank project would cost $20 million, with the state government contributing five percent of the cost.

Nriji said the ongoing projects “will lead to total improvement in our service delivery as we will ensure that every household in Enugu has access to potable water.’’

He said the uninterrupted supplies would be achieved soon after the rehabilitation of the Ajali-Owa, Oji River, Iva-Valley and the 9th Mile old Road Water Borehole Schemes, were completed.

“At the moment, the project has reached 95 percent completion,’’ he said

At Nsukka, many residents described the lack of potable water in most parts of the city as a serious problem that has put them at the mercy of water tanker operators.

Mrs. Anna Ezeama, a resident, told NAN that those who could not afford to pay had resorted to fetching from streams.

“A 20-litre costs between N20 to N30,’’ she said, stressing that the current rainy season had, however, provided some relief.

Mr. Samuel Udechukwu who operates a laundry business in the town, said he spent N2,000 weekly to buy water for his business.

“It is unfortunate that one will be buying fuel to power generating set as well as spending huge sums to purchase water.

The survey in Imo reveals that public water supply to Owerri has been erratic sine 2007 owing to frequent damage to pipes.

Residents of Federal Housing, World Bank and Aladinma/Uratta Housing Estates, Control Posts, Orji, Amakohia, Okigwe and Prefab say they depend on boreholes and harvested rain water for their water needs.

Mr. Philip Alilionwu, a resident, said that public taps stopped functioning in his area in 2007, when the pipes were damaged during the construction of the Owerri-Umuahia dual carriageway.

Many residents of Control Area said they relied on private boreholes.

A staffer of the state water corporation attributed the perennial water problems  to “a lack of funds to carry out repairs and rehabilitation of obsolete water schemes.

“We have made series of proposals to government to no avail and there is nothing the corporation can do without adequate funding,’’ said the source, adding “all our equipment are dilapidated.’’

NAN also reports that in Abakaliki, Afikpo, Onueke in Ebonyi, the water schemes had become dilapidated.

Mr. Akah Nnachi, a resident of Abakaliki lamented that the situation had compelled many people to seek alternative ways of sourcing water from boreholes and wells.

“In the past, we used to get water from taps in my area once in two weeks but now we have not had water for about a month, while in some cases, residents in certain areas contribute money to sink boreholes or wells,’’ he said.

Mr. Paul Okorie, Ebonyi Commissioner for Works and Transport, said the state government had embarked on massive repairs of damaged water pipes.

“The two major water schemes embarked upon by the government at Ukawu and Oferekpe communities at the cost of N8.7 billion will soon be completed,’’ he said.

Mr. Mathew Uguru, Chairman of Abakaliki LGA said 20 boreholes had been sunk in the area, while efforts were on to increase the number.

In Awka, many residents in Anambra expressed concern over the failure of the state government to provide enough potable water.

In Onitsha, 18 years after the failure of Greater Onitsha Water Scheme, residents’ search for potable water has remained almost elusive. The scheme was built by the Federal government during President Shehu Shagari’s administration.

NAN observed that after years of waiting for the resuscitation of the scheme, many landlords in Onitsha began drilling boreholes, while many rely on water sellers called `Mairuwas.’

A resident of Abagana in Njikoka LGA, Mr. Benji Nwokolo said that most residents depended on wells and boreholes, a view corroborated by other residents in the state.

Mr. Emeka Nwankwu, Commissioner for Public Utilities, said the state and federal governments had embarked on programmes to redress the water needs of densely populated areas in the state.

Nwankwu said government had since approved private concessionaires to build and operate water schemes and treatment plants within the city.

The commissioner said government spent about N200 million on the Greater Onitsha Water Scheme, but noted that the money was not adequate to resuscitate the scheme.

The NAN survey also shows that taps have remained dry in many cities in Abia for almost two years, forcing residents of cities to resort to drilling boreholes, harvesting rain water and fetching from brooks.

Mr. Igwe Ogwo, General Manager, Abia Water Board attributed the situation to technical fault at the Umuahia Regional Water Scheme and the epileptic power supply.

He said the board planned to partner with the European Union and the World Bank to address the challenges.

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