Water is an essential resource for human existence and survival. Over the past century, the use of water has been growing at more than twice the rate of global population increase – a development which has raised diverse concern on man’s access to clean and portable water.
Water scarcity or lack of access to clean drinking water is one of the world’s leading problems affecting more than 780 million people globally, meaning that one in every eight people lacks access to safe drinking water. In Africa, over 346 million people make up this global figure with Nigeria – 66 million, ranking first in Africa and third on the global list of countries with low access to clean water.
Apparently, access to clean and portable water is a daily challenge for most Nigerians. 66 million is sure a disturbing figure considering the country’s 160 million population and the 75 percent access to safe drinking water target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which Nigeria has only achieved up to 32 percent barely two years to the expiration of the MDGs framework. There is therefore the need to intensify action in the provision of clean and affordable water sources to the Nigerian populace.
From urban centres to rural settlements, the reality of an ever-changing climate is constantly driving man’s quest for more water, all for daily survival. This is worse off in developing countries – Nigeria inclusive, where little or no attention is given to the mitigating and adapting to the huge effects of global warming and climate change.
The problem of unsafe water consumption is particularly acute in the rural Northern Nigeria, where only about 30 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. This situation leads to high prevalence of waterborne diseases, threat to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and contributes to low levels of school enrollment, especially among girls.
Dirty water is the world’s greatest single killer. Yearly, over 3.4 million people die from water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases. Every hour, 200 children die of water-borne and related diseases globally. Half of the world’s hospital beds are filled with people suffering from water related illnesses. What more can we say? Water is life, yet it is killing us.
Water withdrawals are predicted to increase by 50 percent by 2025 in developing countries. By 2025, 1,800 million people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be under stress conditions.
In Nigeria, activities to make for easy and affordable access to clean water have been on a low level. Government at all levels continue to pay little or no attention to the provision of clean water to citizens. Policies on water are often not well thought-out and implemented. Consciously or unconsciously, private and public efforts on water distribution are concentrated in the urban centres, whilst neglecting the rural centres which are home to over 65 percent of the Nigerian populace.
Appropriated funds for water projects are misappropriated. Looting thrives at the expense of citizens’ health and wealth. Epileptic power supply hinders the functionality of installed water-generating systems. Regulatory bodies barely keep up with the responsibility of examining water production companies and their products, thus, the consumer is at the mercy of profit and not hygiene conscious business enterprises.
Lack of access to safe water is not a technical problem – it is a human, logistics, funding and efficiency issue. Nigeria of course has the money to make it happen. In fact it has been exposed that it would only take one third of what Nigeria spends on bottled water in one year to pay for projects providing water to everyone in need.
While it is not uncommon to see millions of sachet and bottle water in urban cities, one’s mind only question though helplessly if the purest of pure water is pure enough for human consumption. Considering the medical and social effect of these packaging content as non-biodegradable, a swift action must be taken by relevant agencies to avert these anomalies.
As a signatory to the 2007 International Convention on the Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (ICESCR) framework which provides the legal basis for the rights approach to water and sanitation, Nigeria must explore all means possible to ensure the provision of clean and safe water to citizens in every part of the country. This is so imperative because no appreciable development can be made without life – which water is a sustainer.
It is highly disappointing that, in this 21st century, a Nigerian parliamentarian takes delight in throwing a village party to commission a borehole water project for a single community, of which no sustenance plan has been made.
If the country’s vision of achieving the MDGs is real, then adequate and productive investment must be made in water, else the country’s hope of emerging as a leading economy by the year 2020 will only remain a mirage.
Report has shown that Nigeria needs N356 billion annually to overcome its water challenges. This is a good step in tackling the country’s water challenges. However, beyond the financial projections, government should engage viable private firms, provide enabling environments for such firms and projects to thrive, supervise and regulate activities, provide sustainable means of water production and distribution.
The investment on water can never be unproductive as experts have revealed that for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an average return of up to $9, depending on the region and technology. Getting clean water to rural villages is the most effective strategy to help the poor.
Water is life. A thirty nation is a dying nation. Save Our Nation, Save The Planet!
By Tayo Elegbede, Development Journalist and Assistant Editor – www.yourcommonwealth.org