Increasing Access to Potable Drinking Water

With over 60 per cent of Nigeria’s landmass covered by water, the country still grapples with severe water shortage, a development that underscores the need for government to increase access to potable water, writes Ugo Aliogo 

Water is life and it plays an important role to foster peace, prosperity, and conflict prevention. Most Nigerians are still battling with severe cases of water scarcity, especially in the rural areas. With over 60 per cent of the country’s landmass covered by water, it is shocking that the country still grapples with severe water issues. Government at all levels should implement measures to increase access to potable water.

The World Water Day is celebrated on March 22 to create awareness about the billions of people living without access to quality water, clean sanitation and sustainable water use.
The event is an action minded day celebrated globally to tackle the water challenges the world is facing, including Nigeria, and to support the activities of the sustainable development goals six, which reiterate that safe water and clean sanitation be available for all by 2030.

According to the United Nations, when water is scarce or polluted, or when people have unequal, or no access, tensions can rise between communities and countries.

More than 3 billion people worldwide depend on water that crosses national borders. Yet, only 24 countries have cooperation agreements for all their shared water. As climate change impact increases, and populations grow, there is an urgent need, within and between countries, to unite around protecting and conserving our most precious resource.
The theme for this year’s World Water Day, “Water for Peace,” focuses on fostering a more harmonious attitude towards water as a basic human right and not a contentious attitude.

UN Water Report

The United Nations World Water Development Report 2024 stated that the world is currently facing a water crisis that can be seen and felt in a multitude of ways, adding that flooding and submersion hazards are growing. 

The report said on the other hand that half of the global population is facing grave water shortages. Between 2002 and 2021, droughts affected more than 1.4 billion people, causing the death of nearly 21,000 individuals, noting that the situation could bring about a systemic crisis in the societies. If humanity goes thirsty, fundamental questions on education, health and sustainable development will be sidelined, hidden by the daily struggle for water. 

The report brings new data to bear on the important debate, that 50 percent of jobs in high-income countries depend on water, a figure that increases to 80 percent in the lowest-income countries.

However, faced with these severe challenges, the report also makes suggestion that to reinforce water education, there is need to step up data collection to guide public policies, and increase private investment to ensure more sustainable management of water resources.

According to the report, “Universal access to water for drinking, sanitation and hygiene will require an annual investment of around US $114 billion until 2030.  This is indeed a considerable sum – but the cost of inaction will be significantly higher. Our 2024 report puts international cooperation at the heart of proposed solutions – in line with its theme, ‘Water for Prosperity and Peace’. It takes as a starting point a simple fact: rivers, tributaries, lakes and aquifers know no borders. For this reason, over the years, water management has more often been a source of cooperation than one of confrontation.”

FG’s Partnership

The Federal Government of Nigeria, in collaboration with UNESCO and Development Partners, had on Friday 22nd March, 2024, underscored the critical importance of ensuring universal access to clean water and sanitation for all Nigerians by 2030.

This was revealed at the Commemoration of 2024 World Water Day held in Abuja, with the theme, ”Water for Peace,” attended by key stakeholders including the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Prof. Joseph Utsev and representatives from various development partners. 

Highlighting the significance of accessibility to water for the economic growth of the country, Utsev emphasised the urgent need to implement robust policies and programmess aimed at improving water supply and sanitation infrastructure.

He underscored the federal government’s dedication to increasing investment in water resources projects and initiatives, with a focus on bridging the gap and ensuring universal access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services across all socio-economic strata of the country. 

He further explained the importance of water, stating that its value is significantly enhanced with proper hygiene and sanitation practices. He added that simultaneously addressing the challenges relating to Water Resources Management is vital to ensuring nationwide access, adequacy, and sustainability. 

In advocating for an inclusive approach, the minister highlighted the necessity of fostering equitable access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene services to advance social justice and collective prosperity. He emphasized that marginalized groups such as women, individuals with disabilities, and youths must not be overlooked nor sidelined. 

Utsev revealed that the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation has embarked on various initiatives aimed at enhancing funding for water resources projects. He noted that the Ministry has provided 6,761 water schemes in urban and semi-urban areas, and the established 10,568 sanitation facilities in 127 local government areas among many others. 

During his presentation of the UN 2024 World Water Development Report, Head of UNESCO, Abuja Office and Representative of UNESCO to Nigeria, Mr. Abdourahamane Diallo, maintained that the UN report illuminates the imperative of developing and maintaining a secure and equitable water future to foster prosperity and peace for all.

He shed light on how poverty, inequality, social tensions, and conflicts exacerbates water insecurity and emphasized the interconnectedness between sustainable water management, prosperity, and peace. 

The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation, Shehu Shinkafi represented by the Director Water Resources Planning and Technical Support Service, Federal Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation, Adeyinka Adenopo, in his welcome address emphasised that World Water Day 2024 underscores the urgent need to address the disparities in access to safe and clean water. 

In his goodwill message, Managing Director LG Electronics, West Africa, Mr. Hyoung Sub JI, reaffirmed commitment to addressing water scarcity by collaborating with Nigeria’s Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation.

He revealed that through initiatives like borehole donations, LG aims to improve water access, health, and sustainable development. 

Lagos Water Project

N a bid to improve access to clean water and sanitation, the Lagos State government recently unveiled its new Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) policy.

The state government said the policy was in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Six. The policy was presented in commemoration of the 2024 World Water Day.

The Lagos State government developed the policy with technical support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Presenting the policy, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said it served as a guiding framework in the journey towards ensuring universal access to clean water and sanitation.

Sanwo-Olu was represented by the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tokunbo Wahab.

According to him, “This comprehensive policy outlines a holistic approach to water management, encompassing strategies for conservation, pollution prevention, and equitable distribution. By implementing the provisions of the WASH Policy, we reaffirm our commitment to leave no one behind in our quest for water security and peace.

“In our pursuit of water security and sustainability, it is imperative that we embrace the principles of inclusivity and equity. By addressing water scarcity and inequities in access, we can mitigate conflicts and build a more peaceful and just society.”

The Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Joseph Utsev, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Aliyu Shinkafi, said access to clean water remained a luxury for too many people.

The minister stated: “More than 3 billion people worldwide depend on water that crosses national borders. Yet, only 24 countries have cooperation agreements for all their shared water as reported by the UN waters. Public health and prosperity, food and energy systems, economic productivity and environmental integrity all rely on a well-functioning and equitably managed water cycle. Today, we are confronted with unprecedented challenges, from the escalating impacts of climate change to the growing demands of a rapidly expanding global population. Yet, in the face of these challenges, we must also recognise the immense potential of water as a catalyst for cooperation, collaboration and peace-building.”

Water Shortage

Meanwhile, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) recently lamented the fact that millions of people in Africa and Nigeria in particular lack access to drinkable water.

CAPPA said 400 million people in Africa and 110 million in Nigeria are currently deprived of the basic right to safe drinkable water, a development it described as unjust.

CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, blamed the situation on commercialisation of water supply by state governments across the federation.

 “In Nigeria alone, a staggering 113 million people suffer from painful hardship and crippling deprivation of water. This saddening neglect is not due to a scarcity of resources but rather a consequence of the profit-driven logic adopted by state authorities in managing water supply and amenities. The relentless pursuit of commodifying public resources, at the expense of community welfare, has led to the deterioration of vital public utilities and social services.

“Lagosians still lack running water in their homes, with water works remaining padlocked, while citizens are forced to pay exorbitantly to non-state actors for basic water,” Oluwafemi said.

“While this plight is widespread across the country, the situation in Lagos State is particularly alarming for us. Despite the state’s reputation as a lodestar and mega-city, over 8 million of its residents, equivalent to roughly 60 per cent of its population, grapple with limited access to potable water.

“This issue is further worsened by the state’s frequent romanticisation of profit-driven partnership models as purported solutions, despite global evidence documenting the failures of privatizing water supply and infrastructure,” Oluwafemi further said.

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