The Long Wait For Freshwater

In Borno, especially in the northern parts of the State, the seemingly uninhibited population explosion of the people by the day couple with environmental problems such as, drought etc have led to an unbearable shortage of fresh water by the residents, which is obvious from the way humans and animals compete for this precious resource in the same stream or water points.

The village head of Kauji in Damboa local government area of Borno State, Yerima Lawan Kauji asked during a recent visit to his village that, he has heard several times in the radio that 70 percent of the earth surface is covered with water yet how comes his village and several other villages that he has knowledge of are suffering from shortage of water?

For Yerima Lawan, who is in his early 70’s, during his entire life time the demand for electricity, roads, and hospitals have always trailed behind water yet nothing is being done for people especially in the rural areas to have this previous resource’s in abundance. According to him, the school that was built in his village, the maternity centre and the provision of agricultural incentives by successive governments was undermined by the scarcity of water to support these things and even life it self, he implied.

Sunday Trust was at Kauji where the village and other adjoining villages with an estimated population of 10,000 to 15,000 persons depend on three open wells that provide coloured and dirty water in open wells where the villagers claimed that they remove, almost on a daily basis, dead reptiles and other animals from these wells. The few streams around that compliment the wells in the village have become battle grounds for fierce competition between humans and cattle’s alike for water to survive.

Investigations by this reporter revealed that the worsening drought condition of recent months have brought untold hardship particularly for rural dwellers far away from Damboa, which is in the southern part of the State to local government areas in the North such as Gubio Monguno and Magumeri etc. that were visited recently. In Furan village in Magumeri, the situation is far direr than in Kauji. There, they don’t have the privilege of streams that provide uninterrupted water; they only depend on weekly pumping boreholes that serve thousands of people and animals across several villages that trooped in on donkeys and bicycles bearing jerry cans.

“At least, there is water to survive”, said a Borno State Ministry of Water Resources official, whom together with his colleagues decline to comment on the issue at stake, however, he added that, “ even at the seat of government or in develop countries there is a shortage of water”. However, Sunday Trust checks contrast that of the officials of the State that claimed the scarcity does not only affect those in the rural areas alone. In Maiduguri despite the scarcity in many parts of the metropolis Sunday Trust learnt that the quality of the water available is far better than what obtains in the rural areas of the state.

In the rural areas, most of the scarce water are contaminated by animal dump and other dirt’s that expose the users to water born diseases and other infectious diseases that often times fatal because they are hardly medical personnel’s to ether prevent or treat these diseases, a phenomenon that has been buttressed by the annual international conference on fresh water that recently stated that, six thousand persons die every day in Africa alone. Some 1.2 billion people of whom 300 million live in Africa do not have access to adequate supply of clean water.

Indeed, poverty and lack of access to clean water are interrelated in these communities making the scarcity unbearable than that of the urban centers. “In the city you can have access to clean water, it is only a question of affordability but in the rural areas the clean water is not there and the money to buy is not there either” said Mallam Ibrahim Wamdeo, a retired civil servant in Maiduguri.

For many residents in Borno State, access to clean water which supports good health and helps in alleviating poverty is tantamount to wishing for the impossibility particularly in a state where politicians emphasize on projects that captures the cameras of the media and the attention of visitors in urban settlements. However, the Borno State government has budgeted Three Billion, Two Hundred and Seventy One Million, Seven Hundred and Forty Six Thousand Naira (N3, 271, 746,000) to the Ministry of Urban and Rural Water supply in 2008.

Whether or not, this years’ huge budget to provide water to many parts of the state to halt the condescending competition between man and animal at the same water points is possible remains to be seen. For now, the only answer that was handy for Yerima of Kauji as to why there is limited water in spite of the vast water reserve on the earth surface was; only 4% of the water on earth is fresh water.

This revelation that over 90% of the world water reserve are not save for drinking surprised the villagers, making them to despair of any likelihood that the very politician that come and go with promises may never be able to provide fresh water for them in the midst of limited water resource world over.

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