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Community Where Residents Still Scoop Drinking Water From Pond

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It has been established that there is a decline in sanitation practices in Nigeria especially in rural communities. According to reports, 70 million people still lack access to potable water despite efforts by various governments and partners to improve supply. In this report, Obinna Ogbonnaya narrates the plight of a community in Ebonyi State whose situation is so bad many fear an outbreak of water-borne diseases as the rains come.

A survey carried out in 2017 by Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) showed that about 70 million Nigerians still do not have access to potable water supply.

With the continuous decline in access to portable water, it is worrisome that Nigeria may likely not meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal number six, which says that ‘‘countries must achieve universal and equitable access to potable water for all, achieve access to adequate sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation,’’ some experts have averred.

While the situation is bearable in some parts of the country because of the availability of alternative means of getting water, in other places, it is alarming. In Agubata village, in Ndiagu-Achara, Ikwo local government area of Ebonyi State, for instance, their source of water is one that has been completely neglected.

According to reports, the state has always been synonymous with the deadly guinea worm disease which ravaged most rural communities in the state until the intervention of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Cater Foundation and the Gowon Foundation.

The people of the state today, still face serious difficulties accessing portable water either from the public or private supply sources and to meet their needs by all means, they have resorted to digging ponds where they gather in their hundreds to scoop water. This has raised concerns about the health of the people when the danger and implication of such practice is considered.

Apart from a fraction of government workers’ presence in the community, there is indeed untold hardship among the natives of the community who are mostly peasant farmers. Despite the large cultivation of rice paddy produced in the community, the natives, because of the deplorable road network in the area, find it extremely difficult to transport their produce to Abakiliki, where it is sold at a moderate price compared to what is obtainable in the community.

Agubata community, with its large swampy farmland for rice and cassava cultivation, shares borders with other communities in Ikwo. Though a remote area with not more than 100, 000 people, the community has produced a Senator of the Federal Republic who is the current commissioner for Information and State Orientation in the person of Senator Emmanuel Onwe. Onwe was also the personal assistant to the former governor of the state, Chief Martin Elechi.

Regrettably, even with this, the people of the community still drink from ponds and other rural sources. Although there are hand drilled boreholes constructed and made functional by the State Community and Social Development Agency, CSDA and others constructed by the commissioner, the people still experience acute water scarcity which continues to pose threat to an outbreak of genuine worm in the area.

According to a native of the community who does not want his name on print, “the only thing we the residents of the community see as government presence are exotic cars driven by government functionaries or visitors coming to visit the commissioner in his country home. Our land has remained desolate and abandoned with our teeming youths unemployed, no electricity and other social amenities.’’

Another resident of the community, Mr Ignatuis Uguru, expressed pain in the fact that the residents of the community always have their joy cut short in the dry season because of the trouble they have to go through to get water. He noted that every dry season, the few boreholes that they have become useless to them, leaving the people with no other option than to seek other sources of water to sustain themselves while they await another rainy season.

‘‘We have been living at the mercy of our son, the commissioner for Information and State Orientation, who has been of immense help to the community as far as providing social amenities is concerned especially water. Each time the dry season is draws near, that is when it dawns on us that we are rendered hopeless and helpless by those who have been vested with the responsibility of providing us with social amenities.’’

Mr Uguru said that the community, though blessed with rich farm lands where rice and other agricultural produce are cultivated, still suffers a shortage of water supply. He lamented that over the years, residents have known a single source of water supply and that is the pond dug on a valley located near the community farmland. He pointed out that because of the long sustainability of the pond to the people and the constant supply, the people prefer the water to water from boreholes that is salty and takes a longer time and energy to get.

Youth leader, Mr, Iteshi Christopher, a native of Ikwo local government area gave his suggestions on the right things to do to improve water supply in the area. “The only way to achieve success in the area of provision of water in the community is to ensure the reticulation of the Oferekpe giant water scheme constructed by the state government some few meters away from the community. With the water reservoir already in place, that could serve as retaining instrument for water, especially during the dry seasons. The idea he postulated was the construction of a water reservoir that would help to store rain water during the rainy seasons and store the rainwater for the community’s use during the dry season.

“The major problem prevalent in this Agubata community is water, there is no water anywhere in this community and the people are suffering. Many of them usually suffer one water-borne disease or another especially during the dry season, while majority of others have been down with various ailments, as a result of this problem. When the present commissioner for Information and State Orientation was in the senate, he used his contacts to attract the drilling of many boreholes here. But each time he did that, the boreholes wouldn’t last because those contracted to construct the project never do a good job so that in the end, the water from the boreholes is not good for anything. With the rainy season at hand, the people have begun to dig new ponds from where they plan to get water easily incase the few available boreholes in the community did not serve.’’

When contacted to comment on the situation in Agubata and other rural communities in the state, the state’s commissioner for Water Resources, Mrs Euphemia Nwali, said that the state government has completely rehabilitated various water facilities in the state.

‘‘To ensure we provide water to every community in Ebonyi State, we have rehabilitated the Ezillo water treatment plant and Sacamori pipeline network facilities. We intend to have storage tanks in Ichichi Forest, which will supply the Federal University at Ndufu Alike, Ikwo, supply the local government of Ikwo, supply some areas in Izzi, and supply our rice mill and that of Engineer Ugwu.

“The Sacamori pipeline has its network through Ezza North, Ezza South, Ishielu, Izzi, Ohaukwu, and even FUNAI. We want to do proper integration of Ezillo water scheme and that of Oferekpe to ensure that if we have problems with Oferekpe and it is shut down, Ezillo will start supplying. But most importantly is the distribution network in Abakaliki.”

According to her, the Ishiagu water project had been redesigned and re-awarded to a competent contractor at the cost of N1.2 billion, stressing that the arrangement was to integrate all water projects.

“We just started a process to do some distribution network of our pipelines. And I have directed the Ministry of Water Resources to immediately tell us the balance of the distribution so that within the next one year, we should beat our chests and say everybody, especially within the capital city and the rural communities, is provided with drinking good water,” Nwali stated.

 

 

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