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World Water Day: Lagos residents demand potable water

As planet Earth celebrates the 2017 World Water Day on Wednesday, March 22 2017, Lagosians are calling on the state government to make potable water accessible to them in order to reduce the huge amount of money they spend in buying water, as well as to check the spread of water-borne diseases and related illnesses threatening lives and livelihood.

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Observers believe that the bulk of the Lagos population have limited access to potable water

The theme for this year’s World Water Day celebration is: “Wasted Water”.

“Water has now become a very scarce resource. A 20-litre gallon of water which we used to buy for N20 a few years ago now sells for up to N100, which is an increase of about 400%. For a family of just five like mine, it means the little monthly pay goes to water alone. That makes survival a living hell for the masses,” narrates Philip Ikechi, who resides along Iyabo Street in Sari Iganmu, as he joined neighbours in scampering to harvest rain water.

Our correspondent gathered that, in Sari Iganmu and its environs, as well as Amukoko, Orile and Ijora Badiya, as well as several other communities in Lagos, acute water scarcity has become a way of life, so much so that money spent in purchasing water can be equated with major expenses like house rent and education.

This, perhaps, explains why residents earnestly pray for rainfall even though, elsewhere in the state, the rains are dreaded because of the tendency to accelerate flooding which render many homeless.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says 3.4 million people, mostly children, die annually from water-related diseases, such as cholera, typhoid, diarrhea and dysentery, even as 80% of diseases are attributed to lack of access to portable water.

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A cross section of Lagos residents expressed dissatisfaction over the perennial scarcity of portable in their neighbourhood.

“I don’t know why water remains a big challenge in a state that is surrounded by large bodies of water.

“You buy a gallon of water for as much as N70 and sometimes N100 in a family of four, how do you survive?” says a resident.

“With the new Lagos environment law which places restrictions to individuals sinking bore holes, measures should be put in place to cushion the effect on the masses,” intones another resident.

A visit to some communities in the state revealed that most households depend mainly on water from open wells and boreholes provided either by their landlords or by water vendors.

For instance, residents of Mafoloku in Oshodi and Iju Ishaga where there is water corporation presence say government should reduce their sufferings by making public water available.

A resident, Nurudeen Oyewode, explains: “In my area, we have had to rely on private efforts; that is privately generated water supply, not public. It is my landlord that actually provides water for us. And within the community, I can spot about two other places where they have public water. Those public water water spots are private sector-driven and not from government. It just amuses me, my area is close to where you have one of the largest water works in Lagos, that is the Iju area of Lagos, but we don’t benefit from it. It has always been that we had to rely on what the landlord put in place for us. And anytime we don’t have water we have to go and buy. We would buy the roll of truck containing 10 gallons for N500.”

In Ketu and few other areas where people seem lucky to have public water, the residents complain that the water is not good for drinking as the water pipes laid many years ago are contaminated, and thus expose them to health hazard.

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Some Residents observed that most public water facilities in the state provided by organisations or individuals including politicians as corporate social responsibility have long stopped functioning due to lack of maintenance.

Those still working are said to be very far from the people, prompting them to engage the services of water vendors popularly called Meruwa to fetch  them water at a high cost.

Concerned Lagosians are worried as they likened the water problem in the state to the popular words of the ancient Maraina, which says: “Water water everywhere, but non to drink”.

Records show that 70% of an adult body is made up of water at birth, and it accounts for approximately 80% of an infant’s weight.

To maintain that level, a report says a healthy person is expected to drink about three gallons (48 cups) of water per day, while another has shown that drinking about seven to eight glasses of water daily is important for good health.

For residents in parts of Lagos and people in other areas that lack access to good water, experts say one major consequence is the acceleration of kidndey diseases among those who do not drink enough, while water borne diseases will be rampant.

Director of Children Health and Nutrition, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Folashade Oludara, stresses: “We are in a tropical region, which is very hot. We need water to rehydrate ourselves and it is recommended that every one should take at least two to three litres of water per day for the kidney to function well and prevent renal stones. We need not just any water but potable water. If you dont have access to adequate potable water, you develop water borne diseases like typhoid, poliomyelitis, diarrhea, dysentery, cholera and associated diseases, which the country has been battling to check.”

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She advises that while there is need to expand access to water to the greater percentage of the masses, people should learn to conserve water for the available one to go round.

“We have always been advocating that if you use the toilet or whether you go to pass urine, you are supposed to watch your hands. Before you handle your food, you are suposed to wash your hands with soap and under running water to prevent contamination; and, in doing that, you have to conserve water. Don’t open the tap for water to waste,” she counsels.

All the respondents seem optimistic that there will eventually be a society where global best practices would be adopted to make water accessible to all, thereby achieving the Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

By Innocent Onoh

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