Residents of Jalingo, the Taraba State capital in Northern Nigeria, are groaning over the unending scarcity of portable water, writes AYODELE SAMUEL, a blogger
“Water, they say is life”, and the human body constitutes 70% of this liquid, as such water tops the priority list of the demand of mankind. 80% of diseases plaguing humanity are due to use or consumption of unsafe water.
It is generally believed that the accessibility of sufficient quantities of portable water and safe sanitation facilities to a household determines the quality of life of the people and potential for poverty alleviation. This leads to the welfare improvement and is generally linked to a decrease in infant and maternal mortality, increase nutritional values and environmental hygiene.
In Jalingo, the capital of Taraba State, accessing portable water by residents remains a major battle forcing residents of the city to rely on local vendor popularly called Mai Ruwa and few streams for water, while public water supply remained exclusive for the rich in the state.
Wurom Musa is a one of the slum communities in Jalingo, and is inhabited mainly by farmers and traders. Here, the only source of water for domestic consumption is a local stream about seven killometers away. What would have served as a safer source of water supply – a two-hand pump borehole donated to the community five years ago, had collapsed.
In another slum community, Barade Ward, there are tales of woes and anguish whenever the Lamorde River, the only source of water in the area, dries up, typically during dry season. When this occurs, residents of the community are left with no other option than to buy from Mai Ruwa water vendors, whose source of water is unknown.
In another community, Agangagwasa, a resident, Julian Bala narrated that getting water for domestic use is a major challenge.
“Because here is a new area with plenty people, water is our problem, when the wells in the area are dried up, it’s a difficult to get water because, we trek long distance searching for water as if you are looking for petrol, its saddening because water board is not here.”
Another resident, Mrs. Franca Osita told me that she starts her day by searching for water, “I have to wake up early and walk to the stream to get water, or else buy from the water vendors and then prepare the children for school before resuming business, this is usually difficult for me.”
She called on the government to show more concern to the untold suffering water scarcity has brought upon the people, by making provision for more boreholes and making sure that the taps are running again.
The Ward head of Mayo-Gwoi Village, in peri-urban Jalingo, Mr. Aliyu Jassa, said the lack of access to portable water in the city is harming their health.
“Due to lack of water from the taps, some of us depend largely on Mai ruwa, and those who cannot afford to buy, have to depend on the river. Unfortunately we’ve had cases of cholera that have resulted to the loss of lives, especially pregnant women and children; I almost lost my children too, but thank God for quick intervention.”
Hamman Yakubu a retired bank official, on his part lamented the hike in price of water by local vendors. “Me and my family consume not less than three trucks a day at N200 per a truck of 10 jerry-cans each, but we are at the mercy of the water vendors, who sometimes hike the price of the water at will,” adding that it is too expensive for an average citizen in the state who earns less than N18, 000 per month, considering other family expenses like sending the children to school.
Yakubu also noted that though there are pipes laid down for distribution to homes, but too expensive to embark upon, as it will cost N60,000 for the installation per home; adding that the pipes have rusted due to non-usage resulting to health hazard for the few consumers.
Other residents across the city bemoan the recurrent shortage of water and overdependence for water supply on Mai Ruwa whom sources of water is not known to the consumer.
Chairman of Taraba State Water Vendors, Mr. Muhamadu Ahmed, said: “There are over 20,000 members of the association scattered in various location of Jalingo.”
Danlami Musa, a water vendor said, he sells as much as fifteen trucks a day and due to the high demand of the product he often have to go in search of water from the stream, stating that sometimes the water from the borehole is not sufficient to go round.
Secretary of the Association of Water Vendors in Jalingo, Mr. Iliya Jacob, who had been in the business for more than 14 years, said his service is an alternative to government.
“I have been providing water for this entire area for 13 years, people troop in from distances to come here for water, sometimes we have to give them for free, as a humanitarian service, we see the untold hardship on our people, we regard our services as an alternative to the government, because most people cannot afford to buy trucks of water per day, there is no other option for getting portable water,” he added.
He identified causes of water scarcity in city as “dryness of well and stream majorly during dry season and well water changing colour during raining seasons, and sometimes due to the activity of the pumping machine, it drains water from the ground which often cause some temporal water shortage from the ground, and leads to dry wells.”
Area Manager of Taraba Water Supply Board, Jalingo District, Mr. Bitrus Bambur, admitted to ravaging water shortage in the city:
“The product seems to be unavailable; however the government is doing its best to meet up with the challenges. The government is doing its best, the Taraba water supply board is operational on a daily basis, but coverage is not much, due to the growing population of the city, the coverage area is presently at 32%,” he said.
Some of the challenges facing the State Water Board according to investigation include obsolete machines that needs renovation and replacements, inadequate funding, deficiency in human resource development, and manpower that has reduced from 600 to 324 since the creation of the state.
Other challenges, according to Mr. Mambur, is the need to upgrade the facilities for water distribution, stating that only six out of the 14 boreholes in the Board are functional. Calling on the the government to subsidise water supply, in the state rather than putting more money in providing drugs, Mr Mambur said the proper funding of the Board and efficient supply of safe water will help prevent diseases.
A government official who does not want his name in print confirmed that that the state government recently accessed a loan from the African Development Bank, to enable it upgrade the water supply coverage in the state from 32% to 75% .
The article was initiated courtesy of the Pro-poor WASH Stories Project implemented by the Water and Sanitation Media Network Nigeria, with the support of West Africa WASH Media Network, WaterAid, and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.