That water sustains life is not just a saying but an absolute reality that humans are faced with, considering that the human body is composed of between 50-60 per cent water. RUTH TENE NATSA, in support of the Global Rights Media Campaign #saveourwater, writes on the fact that troubled waters is a threat to Nigeria’s existence as a nation.
he fact that water crisis in Nigeria continues to threaten national existence especially in the light of its impending population explosion, industrial development aspirations, and their associated water and energy needs, is one that requires all hands coming on deck to avert.
Water crises are caused by a number of factors, which includes, climate change, unsafe mining practices and fossil fuel generation on water bodies.
Takepart, Online Climate Advocates, define climate change, as a rise in average surface temperatures on Earth. It states that the gases trap heat within the atmosphere, which can have a range of effects on ecosystems, including rising sea levels, severe weather events, and droughts that render landscapes more susceptible to wildfires.
It is also no longer news that often, mining host communities lose their sources of water as lives and plants are endangered as a result of exposure to unsafe drinking water.
LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that in 2009, Reports by the Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders) revealed that the lives of over 400 children were lost as a result of exposure to contaminated drinking water caused by unsafe mining practices in Zamfara State, today, additional records show that over 700 children had died as a result of the practice.
Similarly, in Kogi, Gombe and Osun States respectively, mining communities have lamented the loss of their drinking water to unsafe mining practices.
In an interview with LEADERSHIP Friday, Komta’s Village head (Kojen Tangale) Kilang Mela, decried the unhealthy effect that coal mining had caused in his community, saying “my community of mostly peasant farmers and civil servants have suffered severely as a result of the polluted water from the Ashaka Coal Plant”.
“We have recorded eight deaths, 12 miscarriages by our women, 19 people currently suffering stomach aches, we have had five surgeries, 16 people have lost 144 cows while 64 farmers had lost their farm produce.”
The Kojen Tangale alleged that since 2009, the community has been suffering hunger with the resultant effect of the coal mining, which continues to destroy their farms “the little we have barely sustains us because of the destruction caused by the mining in the neighboring community,” he said.
Indeed, water is a critical natural resource used for a range of diverse needs thereby making it indispensable and crucial to national existence. Water is used for drinking, cooking, cleaning and indeed giving life to agriculture among several other things.
However, recent global trends have shown that water scarcity is a growing global risk, which must be addressed to preserve lives.
Just recently, President Muhammadu Buhari declared a state of emergency on Nigeria’s water supply, sanitation and hygiene sector, stating that access to piped water services which was 32 per cent in 1990 had declined to seven per cent in 2015. Interestingly, LEADERSHIP FRIDAY recalls that the Nigerian government had earlier disclosed a policy of generating 30 per cent of its energy needs from coal energy – a water intensive activity with dire environmental consequences.
A decision made in light of the fact that, the recession of natural water bodies like the River Niger and also dams like the Goronyo dam in Sokoto State had resulted in reduced hydropower generation and the megawatts produced daily for average national energy consumption. It leaves a question in mind: Are policy makers mindful of the effects fossil fuel generation especially coal mining will have on the already shrinking water bodies in Nigeria?
However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that water safety and quality are fundamental to human development and well-being. This is because health risk may arise from consumption of water contaminated with infectious agents, toxic chemicals, and radiological hazards. Also, improving access to safe drinking water can result in tangible improvements to health.
WHO said providing access to safe water is one of the most effective instruments in promoting health and reducing poverty.
The international health agency states that, “Drinking-water quality management has been a key foundation for the prevention and control of waterborne diseases. Water is essential for life, but it can and does transmit diseases in countries in all continents – from the poorest to the wealthiest.
“The most predominant waterborne disease, diarrhea, has an estimated annual incidence of 4.6 billion episodes and causes 2.2 million deaths every year,” it stated in a report on drinking water quality on its website.
LEADERSHIP Friday reports that most Nigerian households now depend on external sources for their drinking water, such as boreholes, water wells and reservoirs as most homes do not have potable water within their premises.
The Multiple Indicator Cluster survey 2017 indicated that this has put the quality of water Nigerians drink into question, reflected in the incessant outbreak of cholera in the country, reoccurring environmental degradation from contaminated water to the earth tremors being witnessed in the FCT and other parts of the country.
A report by the World Bank in 2017 stated that Nigeria provided clean water to fewer than 10 per cent of its city dwellers in 2015. This represented a four per cent fall from 1990.
The 2017 MICS survey stated that 68 per cent of Nigerians buy or source water from locations outside their homes, maintaining that most of the water Nigerians drink are from sachet, bottle water, taps, wells and boreholes, depending on the location.
According to the survey, women constitute the highest percentage (40 per cent) of persons who go out looking for water.
This situation is far worse in the Northeastern part of the country as 83 per cent of homes have no drinking water in their premises. This is followed by the South-south with 71 per cent and the North-central with 70 per cent with drinking water burden.
The burden is also heavier on the rural areas with 74 per cent, compared to 59 per cent in the urban areas. In most cases, those who go looking for water spend about 30 minutes away from their homes.
Noting that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Goal 6 aims at ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, it is on record that Nigeria needs to invest about $8 billion in providing potable water for the country to achieve Goal 6 by 2030.
An official of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Zaid Jurgi, in March said over 60 million Nigerians still lack access to potable water and more funds must be invested to ensure the access.
He said if the country continues at the present rate of development in the water sector, only about 72 per cent of Nigerians would have access to potable water supply by 2030. Mr Jurgi said access to safe water can save most of the under five children who die from preventable diseases, as most of the diseases are caused by poor access to water.
He noted that about 88 per cent of diarrhea cases in Nigeria come from states that do not meet the WASH standard.
To address the above challenges, it has become necessary that extractive industries be made to ensure safe practices to preserve the environment and protect water bodies.
It has also become necessary to state that, with the declaration of emergency on the sector, it is no longer luxury for government to ensure that potable drinking water is provided for citizens, but an absolute necessity to preserve and protect their lives as well as ensure the preservation of the nation’s existence.
Drinking-water quality management has been a key foundation for the prevention and control of waterborne diseases