Clean Water

Water is basic to life. The authorities should ensure its provision across the nation

If there is any evidence needed to prove that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) did not achieve some of its core objectives, it is in the failure of the promise to provide unfettered access to potable water by 2015. The year has since rolled by, yet millions of Nigerians still have huge problem of accessing potable water.

We recall that three years ago, former President Goodluck Jonathan gleefully told the nation that 75 per cent of Nigerians would have access to potable water by 2015 in accordance with the deadline of the MDGs. The reality, however, is that the year ended with even more Nigerians both in rural and urban centres not having access to clean water. Perhaps more embarrassing is that lack of running water has killed more people in Nigeria in 2015 alone than the murderous Boko Haram did in its six -year insurgency.While the terror campaign has claimed about 17,000 lives, the shortage of potable water and poor sanitation led to about 73,000 deaths, according to WaterAid, a London-based nonprofit organisation.

The 2012 joint progress report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund on drinking water and sanitation ranked Nigeria third behind China and India in the list of countries with the largest population without access to improved drinking water. There has been no serious improvement in the situation since then.

When President Jonathan launched the water roadmap in January 2011, he had announced some “quick measures to accelerate water coverage” and released some intervention funds for some projects: drilling of motorised borehole in each of the 109 senatorial districts of the country, rehabilitation of 1,000 hand pump boreholes in 18 states and installation of some special treatment plants, and completion of all abandoned water projects, etc. However, despite the huge sums of money voted for the schemes, drinkable water is still a mirage in most communities across the country. “It is not enough to have a road map”, says Timeyin Uwejamomere, then acting country representative for Water Aid, “it’s about making what is written in that document happen. It is about planning and action implementation. That is what we are lacking in Nigeria.”

Yet, water remains a vital resource of life to both human and non-human entities and as Ban Ki–moon, the United Nations’ Secretary General described it, “a vital tool for improving the lives of millions of the poorest people.” Indeed, potable water and improved sanitation services are verifiable measures for fighting poverty and diseases. But in the absence of water from piped supplies and protected wells, millions of Nigerians living in both rural and urban areas consume what is available. And this has remained a veritable source of threat to human wellness.

In many rural communities the challenge is critical as women and children trek long distances to fetch water from streams and ponds, some of which are contaminated. That perhaps explains why epidemics of diarrhoea and dysentery are still common occurrences. Even in cities like Lagos, and Abuja, the federal capital, a large proportion of people have no access to drinking water and as the joint WHO/UNICEF report observed, many often resort to using any available space as convenience. For those who can afford it, boreholes are indiscriminately dug. But that too constitutes its own problems as borehole undermines the water table and threatens future supply of the commodity.

The United Nations General Assembly has recognised drinking water and sanitation as human rights, meaning that everyone deserves them. The authorities, at all levels, must therefore understand that without water, sanitation and hygiene, it is difficult, if not impossible, to have sustainable development in our country.

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Lack of running water has killed more people in Nigeria in 2015 alone than the murderous Boko Haram did in its six -year insurgency