In the course of my career as a development journalist, I have come to know some peri-urban communities in Lagos and a few other states in the country, where daunting challenges seem under-reported. Makoko, a riverside community located in the old Yaba area on the Lagos Mainland, was once again my destination in the desire to unravel how communities surrounded by water can get one fit to drink as well as for household use.
A community leader, Alhaji Ibrahim Aladetan, discloses: “For those living between the land and the waterfront area of Makoko, the water they get from a borehole is not clean enough for consumption.” The water, he explains, is polluted, has a taste and can only be used for washing and other domestic chores but not good for drinking.
“There is water close to Adekunle (a neighbouring community) but it is not easy channelling and laying pipes to bring it down to our community. Here, we buy drinking water from water retailers who come with water tankers, or we buy sachet water to drink,” he adds.
There are three different categories of settlers in Makoko: those on dry land, those who live between the land and the Lagoon, and settlers who live on the Lagoon.
Surprisingly, it is those living on the polluted Lagoon that get potable water. A community leader attributes this to the concerted business efforts of residents, saying that they found a way out by drilling boreholes on the Lagoon. He took me round to see this ingenious act. It was impossible for me to count the number of boreholes with clean drinking water on the Lagoon but the Baale told me that there are about 30.
“We have enough water in the waterfront area and people come from other riverside communities in Takwabay, Apapa and Amuwo-Odofin to buy water from us. The borehole that we drilled in the river is very clean and water is not a problem for us here,” he says.
Another resourceful venture by the members of the community is the networking of pipes inside the Lagoon to distribute water to numerous tankers where neighbours come to purchase the clean, drinkable water pumped from boreholes drilled in the middle of the Lagoon.
A resident on Makoko dry land, Mr. Bawo Aye, discloses that government officials once came to collected water samples but never returned with the results of the test. “Even though they didn’t return to tell us their finding, those of us living in this area know that our water is polluted and we don’t drink it. It has taste and odour; that is not good quality water. We depend on water tankers that sell to us and that is what we drink. But it is sad that we are surrounded by water and still can’t find clean water to drink,” he stresses.
By Tina Armstrong-Ogbonna