George Onyejiuwa, Owerri, Ifeanyi Okechi, Enugu
Water, one of the essential needs of man has practically turned to gold in some communities in Nigeria. In fact, in some places, people go for kilometres in search of water.
One of such unlucky communities is Mgbele in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo state.
Daily Sun’s recent visit there revealed that the last time the people saw what was close to clean water was in 2006, before their two boreholes packed up. Since then, the community has had to rely on the Unamiri Mgbele stream for drinking water.
Though not an expert opinion, local sources said the stream has been polluted overtime by human effluents and pollutants with the attendant health consequences of drinking such water.
Their next source is rain water, but neither the former nor the stream is exempted from the contamination from gas flaring around the neighbouring community of Izombe and other activities.
Water, therefore, tops the community’s shop list in whatever meeting they have with governments at any levels; be it local, state or federal.
Traditional ruler of the community, Eze Abraham Nwaro Odika recounted their plight thus: “We have no water in this community. The borehole sunk for us about 15 years ago, broke down soon after it was installed and since then, our misery over water has continued. We find it difficult to source for drinking water.
“Our only source of water is a private borehole and the Unamiri stream and that had been contaminated by bandits who kill people at will and dump their corpses in the stream. Decades ago, that stream served as the cleanest source of water for us, but today it is no longer so. So, we are in trouble over dearth of water”.
President of Mgbele youths, Comrade Charles Nwaliobi said their demand for potable water was a matter of right because water means everything to the community.
On the alleged contamination of their water sources, he said: “I can tell you that the water from that stream is not good for health because, less than one kilometre from here is the Izombe oil flow station where gas flaring is the order of the day. That also affects the water apart from other contaminations. That is why our children and women are mostly affected. Apart from that, the road to the stream is very bad and the distance is almost a kilometre.
“Another source of water here is the rain water. But we have noticed that because of the oil explorations and gas flaring around us, we no longer drink that because of the dirty colour it presents”.
Since he who wears the shoes knows where they pinch, a septuagenarian, Mrs. Juliana Ozor said her case was worsened because age would not allow her to even trek to the Unamiri stream, not minding its quality.
She also complained of not having the money to buy water from the private borehole in the community where a 20 litre jerry can sells for N20.
“This water issue is troubling me because none of my children is at home to help. But look an old woman like me; I no longer have the strength to walk a distance not to talk of carrying heavy can to Unamiri.
“So, my son, help us tell the Government that we need water here. It will help us in our agricultural activities too. Sometimes when you return from farm with some cassava tubers, it will be too stressful to take it to the stream to
process. That is the difficulty we are facing,” Mrs. Ozor said.
Similarly, the issue of water is plaguing some parts of Enugu state including Enugu, the state capital. A mega tripartite water project with funding from the African Development Bank (AfDB), federal and Enugu state Governments is still at the embryonic stage.
In Abakpa Nike, one of the densely populated settlements in Enugu, residents of some sections value clean drinking water more than gold.
Daily Sun learnt that people who can afford it spend a fortune buying from water vendors while those with lean income resort to streams in the area.
A resident, Mrs. Juliana Mamah named Avah, Mmiri Ocha and Vom Vom as streams where some people fetch dirty and unhygienic water for domestic uses.
She said: “Sometimes nasty things are seen floating on the stream, but people fetch it because they have no choice, the climax is that some people after fetching it would put alum into the dirty water, for the dirt to sink. They drink the water claiming that the alum made it clean, just because they are left with no choice. For such people, “when the desirable is not available, the available becomes desirable”.
The situation is worse during the dry season when many of the wells dry up. It was also gathered that the water situation is already affecting the value of houses in the area and landlords are not finding it easy especially as striking water by drilling borehole could be equivalent to oil exploration in the Chad Basin trough.
A bachelor who relocated to the Ugbo-Ezeji area of Abakpa recently said he was already working out how to pack out of the place because of the unbearable water situation there.
Another resident said: “Water has been a major challenge for Abakpa residents especially those living at Ugbo-Ezeji, and because of it, some people now relocate to places like, Obiagu, New Haven and so on where pipe borne water and borehole work. But it’s for those that can afford the big rent because it’s costlier to live in those places.”
Enugu State Commissioner for Water Resources, Dr. Charles Egumgbe in a recent radio programme disclosed that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi had directed that more boreholes be possibly provided for communities with dare water situation.
Meanwhile, residents of places like Ugbohe in Abakpa Nike, we were told, now have access to public water supply.