By: Pat Muo & Bernice James
Taps in Enugu and its environs have dried up! From the Obiagu area, well-known for its thick and dense population, to Abakpa Nike, Uwani, the Coal Camp, water is nowhere to be found! The reason is simple: the Enugu State Water Corporation has failed the people! Our special sympathies go to mothers in the Coal City. Managing the little volumes of water available for the upkeep of their families is no mere joke. Before now, Enugu housewives did not give a second thought to the way and manner they made use of water in maintaining their homes.
Infact, most never considered that water should be managed while carrying out house chores. But not any more! Today, where the use of water is concerned, life has changed.
“You can’t be extravagant with water any more in Enugu,” Mrs. Chinyere Udegbunam of No.4 Boardman Street, Uwani Enugu, enthused last weekend. “Water is now a very precious commodity. I don’t know the problem but if we are not careful, we are likely going to hear ugly tales from this town about lack of water in the very near future.”
Udegbunam is not alone. Mrs. Chibogwu Epundu of Road 7/7, Trans-Ekulu Housing Estate, GRA, Enugu collaborated Mrs. Udebunam’s claims: “The last time taps functioned in my house was nine months ago. I won’t forget that day. Our tap ran for just 30 minutes and stopped abruptly. I didn’t believe it. It was clearly not enough for my children to store enough water for our use. I was sure that the taps would run the following day so I ordered one of my children not to attend school so that she could fetch enough water when the taps were re-opened.”
“The taps did not function the following day, and actually have not functioned till today.
While Enugu residents bear the full weight of this endermic situation, commercial water tanker operators are having a field day enriching themselves. A 500-gallon tank of water, which previously sold for N1,200 in the Uwani axis of the city, now sells for between N2,500 and N3,000.
A 250-gallon tank, before now, sold at N600. It now sells at N1,500. Tanker drivers claim that the cost of purchasing water from the 9th Mile Corner, the only source of good and clean drinking water for Enugu, is now high. A barrel of water, purchased from the commercial tanker drivers, which previously was bought at N100, now sells at N300. That is, if the consumer is lucky to find a tanker operator who is willing to sell in barrels.
Omengboji, an Enugu commercial tanker operator, who operates within the Trans-Ekulu axis, told AMEN SuperNews that the cost of providing water to Enugu consumers is now astronomically very high.
“People think we just pack money from our customers. It’s not so. The cost of ferrying water from 9th Mile to inside, Enugu main city is now becoming unbearable to tanker drivers. Government charges for the water have increased.”
Authorities at the Enugu State Water Corporation have offered various reasons for the present lack of pipe-borne water in Enugu metropolis.
Emeka Okeke, an engineer, and staff of the Corporation, told AMEN SuperNews that erratic power supply to the Ajalli Water Works is one of the major causes of insufficient water supply to the Coal City.
Okeke said Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC), the electricity company incharge of power distribution to the water works, currently maintains an epileptic power supply to Ajalli.
“Because of this, we find it absolutely difficult to pump enough water into Enugu.”
“The only source of water available to Enugu residents at the moment is the Iva Valley water scheme. Iva Valley scheme was built to supply water to limited areas of the city. Its capacity is less than 200,000 cubic milliliters, which cannot supply sufficient water to Iva residents, the GRA and the Enugu State secretariat. It is this make-shift water scheme that Enugu now totally depends on.
In the past two months, Enugu State Water Corporation has had its situation worsened by a Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) embarked upon by a technical agreement between the Enugu State government, a foreign technical group and the Federal Ministry of Water Resources.
Public Relations Officer of the Corporation, Mr. Eriji Chime told AMEN SuperNews that TAM was embarked upon to bring a near permanent solution to the incessant shortages in Enugu and environs.
Unfortunately, although the corporation’s intentions of embarking on TAM is laudable, the rate at which the project is being executed is next to snail’s speed! The operators of the project have not even concluded work at the Ajalli Owa Water scheme, not to talk of moving to the other schemes which will make the dream of supplying sufficient water to Enugu and its environs feasible.
The major implication is that Enugu residents may tarry a while before full-scale water supply is restored to the Coal City. For now, things will only get worse, and the commercial tanker drivers will continue to milk the residents dry and grin from ear to ear to the banks.
The immediate past administration in Enugu made an average effort to increase water supply to Enugu residents. It provided water outlets, laid pipes and other accessories in virtually every part of the Coal City. The people cheered the government. Under former Water Resources Commissioner, Engr. Charles Kanayochukwu Ajah, Governor Sullivan Chime began an effort at Iyi Ogwe River.
to build a water scheme which would have given a permanent solution to the perennial water shortages for which the city is now known for. AMEN SuperNews discovered that when Engr. Ajah was replaced as commissioner, the dream of taking the Iyi-Ogwe Water Scheme to positive conclusion died with his exit.
“The scheme brought a lot of practical hope to the residents of Enugu,” Chief Tony Ojukwu, the Igwe and traditional ruler of Ogui-Nike Community offered. “Unfortunately, the project died a slow death and so was the enthusiasm which came with it.”
Ajah’s exit was instructive. It told volumes about the other side of democracy in the present day Enugu State. Ajah was booted out as a sacrificial lamp. AMEN SuperNews findings suggest that at the expense of the Iyi-Ogwe water project, Governor Sullivan Chime relieved Ajah of his position due to the commissioner’s political attachment to the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.
Ajah was known to have exhibited 100% loyalty to whatever causes Senator Ekweremadu embarked upon. Infact, it was touted at that time that his ascent to the position of commissioner was linked to his relationship with Senator Ike Ekweremadu.
When therefore, Ekweremadu and Chime fell apart on the issue of the succession to the senatorial seat of the Enugu West Senatorial District, Chime resolved to do away with all Ekweremadu loyalists. Unfortunately, Engr. Ajah fell into the bracket.
The major effect was the failure of the Iyi-Ogwe Water Scheme, and the continued epileptic nature of water supply to Enugu and its environs.
Although it is clear that the Enugu State Water Corporation has not lived up to expectation, officials of the corporation insist that they are doing their best to provide water to the people. The barrier, they claim, is high cost of assembling, purifying and maintaining clean pipe-borne water for supply to the people of the state.
At the Constitution Road office of the corporation, Chinonso Oko, one of its staff, revealed that the enormous cost of providing water is one of the main causes of insufficient supply to Enugu.
“It costs the Water Corporation, exactly N827 to purify a cubic metre of water for supply to the people but we charge only N40 as water rate per cubic metre. You can see the wide discrepancy. We are trying our best.”
The Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) at Ajalli Owa may end up relieving Enugu metropolis of part of its water shortages.
The Ajalli-Owa Water Works was built scores of years ago by the colonial masters. Then, Enugu had a thin population of less than 600,000 people. Even then, the government at that time ensured due maintenance of the water works. The problem of the water works began after 1985, the last time it was maintained, till date. After maintenance that year, previous regimes in the state did not consider it expedient to have the water scheme undergo a regular turn around servicing, probably due to high cost of such exercise.
The result is that for many years, the Ajalli water works continuously exhibited signs of collapse. Incessant pressure on the facility became overbearing, since it now did more work as a result of the over-bloated population of the Coal City, following the influx of people from the rural communities in search of better living conditions. Erosion added to the compounding technical problems bedeviling the water scheme as well as a conspicuous need to expand the size of water works which was initially built to serve the water needs of a pre-colonial Enugu city.
When completed, 72 new water pumps will have been installed to boost the water supply capacity of the water works.
The obvious insufficiency of pipe-borne water in Enugu has left the city and its environs grievously exposed to several health hazards.
It is clear that volumes of the water being consumed by Enugu residents at the moment, is polluted.
The reason is simple. In their bid to minimize the use of the little available, Enugu residents are bound, to break the natural and Health rules of total cleanliness.
No doubt, toilet systems – where they exist – will not be properly flushed. Clothes may not be properly washed. So will be used plates, cutlery and kitchen utensils. Those who take their bathe twice a day, may have since reverted to once daily.
The result is an obvious increase in the presence of germs and pathogenic micro-organisms in most homes in Enugu! While skin rashes and other skin diseases will soon manifest among the populace, the pressure for water supply, usually on the rise during dry seasons, may soon lead to other diseases following the coming of the dry season which will shortly be heralded into the city.
If engineers at the Enugu State Water Corporation are not aware, clean water is a pre-requisite for reducing the spread of water-borne diseases.
In and around the city, the commonest of these diseases are Ameobiasis, caused by use of non-treated water, Clyclosporiasis, Giardiasis, Taeniasis, Fasciolopsiasis, Hymenolepiasis, Ascariasis, etc.
Others are Cholera, Dysentery, Otitis Externa and Typhoid Fever.
Of all diseases, Enugu should be mindful of the re-occurrence of Ebola virus, following the absence of purified water. Although the federal government last week, dispelled rumours of a possible resurgence of the virus in Nigeria, Enugu residents must remember that it was through hand-wash that the country fought the disease to a standstill early last year.
Water, therefore, plays a pivotal role in checking the out-break of these diseases. The Enugu State Water Corporation must take note.
Perhaps, the greatest problem confronting water supply in Enugu is lack of will and total commitment by the Enugu State government to sustain water generation, carriage and distribution to the state capital.
AMEN SuperNews discovered that the government in Enugu does not make funds available to the Water Corporation to maintain its water works as, at and when due.
Sources who opted for anonymity, hinted that the Enugu State Government, as far as the up-grading, servicing and maintenance of the corporation’s facilities is concerned, treats the corporation with non-chalance.
“We need not over-stretch the issue that whatever has been happening here pertaining to lack of water in Enugu is clearly the fault of the state government,” our source echoed.
“Before now, we were allowed to use part of the money paid by consumers to run the corporation, particularly in relation to servicing of water pumps and general maintenance of water outlets. Now, the government has changed that arrangement. They said all monies realized by our office should be paid directly into government coffers. Water Corporation should then make a request if there is need for expenses including servicing of water pumps and general maintenance.”
“On many occasions, we have sent in such requests. You won’t believe that most of the requests were delayed until things got out of hand. Some never got approvals. Water Corporation has in its stable, well-trained engineers and technicians who are ready to sustain water supply to Enugu State. But government is not playing its part well. I doubt if the situation will ever improve.”
“TAM or not, EEDC’s power outages or not, taps in Enugu are not meant to dry up the way they are now. That is, if the government is determined to achieve it,” our source concluded.