NIGER DELTA RESIDENTS DIE FROM UNSAFE WATER

Filed in News by on February 10, 2010

Niger Delta residents die from unsafe water

By AKANIMO SAMPSON
February 10, 2010 05:47AM

Lack of access to safe water is a major source of poor health for millions of residents of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, a NEXT investigation has shown.

Majority of the citizens of the area affirm one of their most critical needs is safe drinking water.

Public health officials say water accounts for an estimated 80 per cent of all diseases and one-third of all deaths in the developing world. In the Niger Delta area, where the natural water sources have been polluted by oil production activities, they estimate that water could account for over 60 per cent of all deaths in the oil communities, and some 90 per cent of all diseases there.

Although the oil region is largely riverine, oil production activities appeared to have polluted the region’s natural water sources, making them increasingly unsafe for human consumption.

During the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo, the Federal Government reportedly set aside N10.6 billion for 1,330 new water supply schemes, with the intention of providing additional 8.14 million people with potable water across the country. Thus, one of the priorities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), a federal government interventionist agency in the region, has been the provision of safepotable drinking water.

Around 120 of the 806 projects undertaken by the agency since 2000 is recorded as water projects.

“Most are delivered with standby generators and purpose-built generator house, water treatment facility as well as service quarters,” the Agency said.

But the projects did not reach most communities, and even those it reached complained that they are not functioning properly.

Some civil society organisations, including the Niger Delta Wetlands Centre, have recently stepped into the fray.

The Coordinator of Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), Gaia Sprocati, said in an e-mail interview that a recently completed solar water project in Kaiama, designed around a deep borehole (well), has a capacity to pump 10,000 gallons of water per day.

“The project is intended to bust a number of myths, such as the assertion that regions with low cloud cover are not suitable for solar, and provide a working model for others to learn from,” Mr. Sprocati said.

Failed water projects

He said the impetus for the project was the hundreds of failed, diesel-powered water projects dotted across the Niger Delta region that generally have functioned for a year or less before failure and abandonment.

“To get top quality drinking water, they had to bore to 850feet and make a number of careful decisions on design and integration of components,” he said.

“However, these challenges have meant that the Wetlands Centre now has the answers to a wide range of questions that arise when trying to design technically sustainable systems for the region.”

A water engineer with the Rivers State government, speaking on condition of anonymity, said population growth is faster than water supply development, thus resulting in deteriorating coverage of the service.

He said the existing system of safe water supply in the Niger Delta cannot be scaled up without first making structural and institutional changes, something he said declining budgetary allocation has made hard to achieve.

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