Urban gate-guarded communities’ water supply woes: Bangalore (India) vis-avis Lagos communities (Nigeria)

People who live in urban gate-guarded communities are affluent and can afford the cost of providing necessary amenities for their families. In Nigeria, the attraction of such highbrow communities usually centers around three considerations: adequate security, water supply and uninterrupted power supply.

These same considerations apply in India.

People who live in Bangalore, a gate-guarded community, are rich IT professionals, hence the reference to it as India’s “Silicon Valley”. They want and can afford the best for their families. In Nigeria the population of such communities is mixed consisting of successful young professionals and entrepreneurs.

What got this blogger interested in this topic was the short video provided by the BBC News on Bangalore, the ‘Indian silicon valley’. As a result of the increasing population pressure, the water supply in this community has reached breaking point.

This situation is the subject of the BBC video, Bangalore water woes: India’s Silicon Valley dries up. The web link to the the BBC video:

(http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-india)

And the subtitles of each frame are given below:

  • This is the first city in India which has actually physically run out of water.
  • Morning rush hour and these tankers take over Bangalore streets.
  • They are carrying precious commodity – water.
  • If we don’t supply water then there is no water for them.
  • Earlier these used to be wetlands.
  • At that time we were getting water at a depth of 300 feet.
  • Now it is 1,400 t0 1,500 feet.
  • Thousands of tankers haul millions of litres of water across Bangalore daily.
  • Bangalore is one of India’s fastest growing cities, its Silicon Valley.
  • But its traditional water sources are drying up and are also contaminated.
  • So many people now depend on water delivered by private tankers controlled by cartels sometimes called “water mafia”.
  • I would think in some form it does operate like a cartel but it’s something nobody wants to talk about openly.
  • Software professional Subir Bose lives in an upmarket gated complex.
  • Like the other 200 families here, he’s at the mercy of tanker operators.
  • Yes we are still getting water but the quality of water is suspect.
  • The negotiations have become tougher with them because the rates are going higher.
  • Bangalore has 400,000 bore wells diminishing its ground water.
  • It is estimated that about 400 t0 500 million litres of water must be extracted every day.

Mr. S. Vishwanath, a conservationist, says in conclusion of the video that “So if bore wells dry out the city starts to lose its lifeline. So the crisis is how to revive and keep these bore wells alive. Bangalore has been in water management since 1890s. So it needs to start to become a pioneer once again to solve the crisis that grips it”.

Currently the situation in Nigeria, i.e. heavy dependence on water tankers in high brow communities, is not caused by population pressure on the groundwater resources. Rather, it is caused by not paying due attention to proper water supply borehole location vis-à-vis location of onsite sanitation, poor borehole construction practices and skimping on borehole cost which is necessitated by having to drill down to up to 200 to 300 meters as noted by a Nigerian news-site, Naij.com, which states that if people in gate-guarded communities in Lagos want to have access to potable water without depending on groundwater they have to buy water from water tankers or drill deep boreholes.

In the case of Bangalore, the exponential increase in the number of boreholes necessary for the exploding population of this affluent community and the lowering of the water table to a point where groundwater abstraction cost becomes prohibitive has resulted in huge dependence on water tankers which calls for proper management of the groundwater resources in order to wean it from dependence on water tankers.

Lagos Island, where the highbrow communities are located, is characterized by:

  1. Shallow water-table.
  2. Absence of centralized sewerage system, hence the use of septic tank system for the disposal of household and human wastes.
  3. These septic tanks are usually about 3 meters deep.
  4. High cost of drilling deep boreholes (200-300 meters deep) which many household cannot afford.

P.S. Ola, O.M. Bankole and A.Y.B. Anifowose (2010) describe the area as having a complex lithology of alternating sequence of sand and clay deposits  up to a depth of about 270m. They delineated seven aquifer horizons at the following depths: 3-10m; 40-70m; 60-100m; 110-140m; 150-180m; 178-210m and 212- 240m, corresponding to aquifer thicknesses of 15-25m, 15-30m; 10-45m; 20-40m; 10-42m; 10-30m and 20-45m respectively.

If above four characteristics are considered each on its own or jointly for example, two of them, especially ‘1’ and ‘3’, they may be responsible for why water supply boreholes in Lagos Island area cannot be relied upon as a source of potable water for the following reasons:

  • Pathways through contamination from on-site sanitation can reach groundwater supplies are through the main body of the aquifer and pathways created by the design and construction of the water supply boreholes. These are called localized pathways.
  • As indicated above these areas are in the unconsolidated recent sediments. Aquifer vulnerability with respect to its contamination in Lagos Island will be a function of the intrinsic characteristics of this geologic terrain.  This vulnerability is dependent on travel time for water to move from ground surface to the water table. It is necessary to note that the water table of the near surface aquifer in this area is shallow. The greater the travel time the greater the opportunity for containment attenuation, hence the need for reliance on deep boreholes, and in addition great lateral distances between on-site sanitation and water supply boreholes will also offer the opportunity for containment attenuation. The latter requirement to ensure long travel time is a luxury in these areas because of the ubiquitous presence  of septic tanks.

Most of the gate-guarded communities on Lagos Island claim to have central water supply equipped with water treatment plants. The prices of properties are really high and one would expect that such communities would have top quality communal services, but some do not.

A company called Neighbourhood Review provides information on some of the Lagos communities, such as Greenland Estate, Cooperative Villa Estate, Femi Okunnu Estate, Cadogan Estate, Igbo Effon Estate, Royal Garden Estate, Thomas Estate,  Marshy Hills Estate and Chevy View Estate to mention a few.

Here are two of the reviews:

“Cooperative Villa Estate: The estate has a water supply unit but was not functional at the time of this review. All houses in the estate have their boreholes and reservoirs.

Femi Okunnu: The estate has a water supply unit but was not functional at the time of this review. All houses in the estate have their boreholes and reservoirs”.

Lessons learnt in the case of Bangalore are summarized above by Mr. S. Vishwanath, a conservationist, who recommends adequate water resources management. While in the case of Lagos Island, transparency concerning claims on infrastructural provision by the estate developers is necessary, especially with respect to provision of communal services.

Finally, there is a need for proper water supply borehole construction and effective public awareness concerning borehole location vis-à-vis on-site sanitation.

 

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Governments’ water supply policy should be geared to correcting their bad deeds instead of criminalizing citizens efforts towards improving access.

The Minister also wondered aloud whether there would be groundwater left for future generations considering the present rate of groundwater abstraction! This is a troubling statement coming from a country’s Minister of Water Resources because groundwater development at the current rate cannot completely empty the aquifers in Nigeria as the country is not in a climatic zone (arid) where there will always be recharge to the aquifers either in the Sahel or the humid regions of Nigeria. 

At the just concluded 53rd Annual International Conference and Exhibition of the Nigerian Society for Mining and Geosciences at Abuja, the Minister of Water Resources bemoans the ubiquitous drilling of boreholes by individuals in Nigeria even within the distance of a few meters as small three meters. This kind of observation is common among government officials, both permanent and transient who are always ready to focus on the symptoms of a phenomenon rather than the cause, and are usually ready to pass the buck to the average Nigerian.

Individuals do not need to engage in drilling boreholes except in isolated and rural areas in countries where governments and/or corporations accredited for water provision meet their service-to-the-people responsibilities. Drilling within short distances of each other, therefore, would never arise if the government does its part concerning provision of potable water for its citizens?

It is common knowledge that each family in Nigeria is a ‘micro government’ because it has to generate its own energy, provide its own water as well as organize its own garbage disposal and its own security (neighborhood vigilante), etc.

Government and its officials should stop finger-pointing at what it considers an over-reach by its citizens who are merely doing all they can for survival in the face of failure of government to provide good governance – a major part of it is service to the people – at every level.

Nigerians are all witnesses to the situation at Abuja, Lagos and other big urban centers where every flat in multi-storey buildings has its own electric generator resulting in a cacophony of noise pollution which any visitor from another country cannot miss, and the air pollution is immense.

Should the government crack down on these unintended polluters as is the case in some urban centers go unchallenged? In the same vein, the Minister of Water Resources should not attempt to blame and criminalize the attempts of families that are just trying to provide water for everyday use by drilling domestic water supply boreholes.

This blog has cried out about the adverse impact of corruption on the provision of potable water supply in Nigeria.

There have been reported cases of advance procurement for several years of some water treatment chemicals by politically-appointed Water Board members. Transparency International reported that billions of Naira tha would have been used to improve access to potable water have been corruptly embezzled since independence.

Here is a quotation from this blog: (https://weircentreforafrica.com/2011/08/31/corruption-in-the-water-sector-makes-access-to-potable-water-and-sanitation-a-moving-target-in-nigeria-2/ ):

Luke Onyekakeyah’s article on  Corruption in the water sector some years ago noted  that “conservatively not less than $1 trillion dollars have been pumped into the public water sector since the past 46 years of independence. This figure excludes private expenditures in the water sector. Nigeria being a corruption-ridden nation, over 60 per cent of this amount was corruptly embezzled.”

While the source of Onyekakeyah’s data for this article published in The Guardian [a Nigerian newspaper], a couple of years ago is unknown and while the figure may seem outrageous, goings-on in the water and sanitation sector in the country would tend to buttress the claim about the adverse impact of corruption on low figure on access to potable water.  Sixty percent of a trillion dollars of those years should be adequate – then and now – to significantly change the current statistics on access to potable water and good sanitation in Nigeria”.

It is common knowledge that most water corporations in the country only supply water to Government Housing Estates or GRAs and that less than 10 percent of the population of any urban area gets its water from water corporations. I have noticed while staying at a hotel in a high-income area of Abuja, the country’s capital that the ‘mairuwa’(cart-puller water vendors) sell water in jerrycans to households. If this could happen in that kind of area in the country’s capita, it is easy to imagine what people in less-privileged areas of the country.

The Minister also wondered aloud whether there would be groundwater left for future generations considering the present rate of groundwater abstraction! This is a troubling statement coming from a country’s Minister of Water Resources because groundwater development at the current rate cannot completely empty the aquifers in Nigeria as the country is not in a climatic zone (arid) where there will always be recharge to the aquifers either in the Sahel or the humid regions of Nigeria. 

Even in the Sahel part of the country, there is appreciable rainfall during the wet seasons although in the Sahel, there is the need to manage groundwater abstraction so that future cost of abstraction will not be prohibitively high.

The Minister’s point on the need to carry out modeling of our ground water is in the right direction. There is a need to model the country’s surface water resources which is impossible to achieve without having good long-term data. The Government needs to invest in collection of good quality data in the management of its surface and groundwater resources. It is important to know how much government devotes to this important area of water resources management.

Government at state and local government levels should invest more in the provision of potable water instead of seeking to tax or criminalize the efforts of citizens who are actually assisting governments in what is an essential part of their functions of service to the people.

Finally, to avoid the kind of embarrassing technical mistake by the minister, it would be necessary for government officials to be properly briefed whenever they need to make public pronouncements at professional or technical gatherings.

DEPO ADENLE

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The Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, on Wednesday (March 29, 2017) expressed worry over the increasing rate of indiscriminate drilling of boreholes by quacks in the country.

Borehole 2017

Mr. Adamu said this at the 53rd Annual International Conference and Exhibition of the Nigerian Society for Mining and Geosciences in Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the conference is entitled: “The Extractive Industry: imperatives for Wealth Creation and Employment Generation”.

He called on the members to show enough concern, just as he said the society had a lot to do in the water resources sector.

Mr. Adamu said it was time Nigeria sought ways to protect its surface and underground water resources effectively.

“It is getting out of hand. You find a situation whereby within three meters, households are drilling boreholes; people are not mindful of the interference.

“We are spending too much money, whereas, we can have maybe a single unit to serve people. I think it’s time we look at these issues.

“I think it is very important we do not exploit our ground water resources to a point where there will be nothing left for the future generation of this country,” he said.

The minister said the National Water Resources bill, approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), would soon be forwarded to the National Assembly.

According to him, the bill consists of a modelling regulation to monitor exploitation of ground water resources.

He said that the bill when passed, would ensure the setting up of a hydro-drilling industry in the country.

He said the lack of proper regulation in drilling activities had made it an all comers industry, thereby undermining activities of members of the society.

However, Olugbenga Okunlola, President, Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society, sought for a collective integration and corporation among governments, industry, academia and technical partners to support geosciences data collection.

This, Mr. Okunlola said, would help in the provision of pre-completion geosciences information to mining companies to support economically viable extraction processes.

He commended the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari on his emphasis on economic recovery and diversification in the solid mineral sector.

“This has been practically translated into viable increased funding for the major government institutions,” he said.

Premium Times, (NAN), March 29, 2017.

People Power Defeats ‘Death Sentence’ Water Bill In Nigeria — But The Fight Isn’t Over

This blog has expressed concerns about the dangers of carrying out privatization exercise without involving all stakeholders in the process: (https://weircentreforafrica.com/2015/02/27/privatisation-of-water-supply-in-developing-economies-lagos-state-case/). It also provided information about the views and concerns of the USA Congressional Black Caucus on the same issue (https://weircentreforafrica.com/2015/06/23/congressional-black-caucus-against-lagos-water-privatisation/). …

Peter Gleick (1999) in his paper on “The Human Rights to Water”  “argues that access to a basic water requirement is a fundamental human right implicitly and explicitly supported by international law, declarations, and State practice. Governments, international aid agencies, non-governmental organizations, and local communities should work to provide all humans with a basic water requirement and to guarantee that water as a human right.”

Lagos State failed to guarrantee water as a human right to the people of Lagos. 

It has attempted many times to privatise water supply and failed because of public outcries  arising from non-involvement all stakeholders in the process. Using its State Assembly to go around the problem by way of a “Lagos Environmental Bill” is not only a smart alec move but an ingenious and very unfair way to try another route for its failed attempt at privatizing its water supply.

The enlightened people of the State and the NGOs in the water sector should be commended for their efforts in exposing the Government’s clandestine approach to the issue of privatization.

As the title states the fight is not over; the public and the NGOs should be prepared for government’s effort for other forms of guerilla method to force water supply privatization on the good people of Lagos State.

DEPO ADENLE

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People Power Defeats ‘Death Sentence’ Water Bill In Nigeria — But The Fight Isn’t Over

On World Water Day, a massive rally unfolded in Lagos, Africa’s most populous city, to protest the ongoing water crisis.

By Dominique Mosbergen

In a heartening about-face, the government of Lagos, Nigeria, has backpedaled on a controversial law that would have criminalized the informal water sector, which almost 20 million people rely on to obtain their drinking water.

Activists credit overwhelming public opposition for the reversal, and environmental and human rights groups are breathing a sigh of relief. But a huge protest that unfolded in Lagos on Wednesday ― World Water Day ― signals their fight is far from over.

“I can confirm that most of the anti-people provisions have been removed from the final version of the law,” Akinbode Oluwafemi, deputy executive director for Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, told The Huffington Post in an email this week.

But even with the revisions to the law, “it is still not yet uhuru,” Oluwafemi warned in a statement, using the Swahili word for freedom.

The United Nations, local activists and citizens alike had reacted strongly to a draft of the Lagos Environment Bill, passed hastily in February by the Lagos State House of Assembly. The bill went after the metropolitan area’s informal water sector ― including local “mai ruwa,” or water vendors, who have been known to charge exorbitant fees ― as well as residents who drill their own boreholes or fetch water from lakes or rivers.

According to activists, the draft included language so broad that it would have potentially threatened most residents’ access to drinking water. Lagos, Africa’s most populous city, located in a state of the same name, is the midst of a major water crisis. Only 1 in 10 people have access to water that the state utility provides. Oluwafemi called the state’s proposal a “death sentence.”

“When the State fails to provide adequate access to drinking water, no one should be criminalized or fined for fetching water from lakes, rivers, or any other natural sources,” Léo Heller, U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation, said in a statement last month, adding that the Lagos state government had gone “a step too far.”

For decades, the state has “neglected to invest” in water infrastructure in Lagos, Jesse Bragg, spokesman at the nonprofit Corporate Accountability International, explained from Boston earlier this month. It has instead favored the possible privatization of Lagos’ water utility through public-private partnerships, he said ― a plan that has repeatedly been met with public opposition, and has repeatedly failed.

Activists felt the draft of the environment bill was a way for the government to push its privatization agenda.

“We are particularly worried that the governor will sign a law that practically wills our right to a free gift of nature … to private interests whose sole concern is profits,” said Francis Abayomi, executive director of the Peace and Development Project in Nigeria.

Amid the opposition, Lagos lawmakers scrambled to assure their constituents that the bill, which also included provisions related to waste management and other issues, would “benefit all Lagosians.”

Akinwunmi Ambode, the governor of Lagos state, said the bill would “result in historic environmental victories” as he signed it into law on March 1. Tunde Braimoh, the House committee chairman on information, strategy and security, added that the bill’s more “contentious” provisions had already been removed before Ambode signed it.

However, to the chagrin of environmental and human rights groups, the law’s final language was not made public until almost three weeks later.

In a statement last Thursday, a coalition of activist groups called for the government to “stop hiding” the details of the new law. Government officials finally released the law’s language to the public over the weekend.

Lagos, home to 21 million people, is Nigeria’s and Africa’s most populous city. Water shortages, fueled in part by recurrent drought and violence, have been decimating Nigeria for years.

“We are so impressed that the Lagos government allowed the voice of the people to prevail in its decision,” Oluwafemi said in a statement after the revised language was released. “The Governor Ambode administration [is] demonstrating that it is a listening one and we commend this.”

But even as they celebrate their victory this week, Oluwafemi and other activists have stressed that they’re not about to rest on their laurels. On Wednesday, World Water Day, hundreds of people gathered in the heart of Lagos to protest water privatization.

Organized by the “Our Water, Our Right” coalition, an alliance of several African and international environmental and human rights groups, over 1,000 people were expected to attend the rally. They called on the government to turn its back on privatization and instead use public funding to improve water infrastructure and treatment, as well as welcome public participation in the decision-making process.

“This is not the end of the water crisis in Lagos,” Lauren DeRusha, an associate campaign director at Corporate Accountability International, said in an email this week.

People protest public-private partnerships in Lagos on World Water Day

Speaking on his mobile phone from the rally on Wednesday morning, Philip Jakpor, an activist with Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, said that 500 people had already joined the protest and “many more are joining as we go along.”

“We are saying ‘no’ to water privatization,” he said.

Jakpor explained that while the “most anti-people” sections of the new environment law were removed and it does include some positive water-related gains ― such as more rigorous regulation on commercial water users ― the legislation still appears to support water privatization “in the long run.”

“We still restate our opposition to public-private partnerships in the water sector, which the state is still pressing ahead with,” Oluwafemi said in a statement on Monday. “We are determined to challenge this false solution through lawful means, including public demonstrations, in the days ahead.”

See photos from Wednesday’s World Water Day rally in Lagos below. 

COMMUTERS AND TRADERS CROWD NIGERIAN COMMERCIAL CAPITAL.

Molue gridlock

LAGOS WATERtwoREJECT

OUR WATER OUR RIGHT

LAGOS WATER4

LAGOSIANS REJECT PPPLAGOS WATER5not solution

PPP IS NOT SOLUTION

Dominique Mosbergen Reporter, The Huffington Post

People Power Defeats ‘Death Sentence’ Water Bill In Nigeria — But The Fight Isn’t Over

Onitsha: World’s Poster city for worst air pollution.

The following bullet points summarize the crux of the matter or the underlying factors responsible for making Onitsha and many other developing countries’ cities places with air pollution problems:

  •  Very poor awareness about the health implications of air pollution.
  • Lack of, or poor enforcement of environmental regulations which may be due to budgetary constraints or poor commitment by governments at all levels to implementing regulations. Enforcement of regulations requires hiring and supervision of several environmental officers for numerous urban centers.
  • Poor coordination of the activities of environmental officers at the three tiers of government in Nigeria where the Onitsha case is a mere sample of what the situation really is in just about all communities, especially the urban areas. The Local Government Authorities employ Water and Sanitation Environmental (WES) officers whose activities are poorly monitored.

 The [Nigeria] National Environmental Sanitation Policy of 2005 is silent on the issue of air pollution. This may be responsible for the weak attention paid to this aspect of environmental sanitation in the country. The following eight constraints are listed in this policy as being responsible for hindering effective environmental sanitation in the country:

  1.  Lack of clear policy assigning responsibilities for environmental sanitation within the levels of government.
  2. Poor perception of environmental sanitation as an essential service and a major determinant of health and good standard of living.
  3. Inappropriate institutional framework.
  4. Duplication of responsibility by many stakeholders in the sector.
  5. Weak and poorly enforced Public Health Laws, State Laws and Bye-laws.
  6. Lack of adequate professional manpower especially at the state and LGA levels.
  7. Inadequate research activities.
  8. Inadequate environmental sanitation education and awareness.

 The sad story of Onitsha and other urban centers in Nigeria with air pollution problems discussed below should be viewed against the background of the observations made by this blogger and the constraints listed in the National Environmental Sanitation Policy.

DEPO ADENLE, February 16, 2017

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Welcome to Onitsha: the city with the world’s worst air

By Hadassah Egbedi/theguardian.com, 13 February 2017.

The Nigerian city has recorded the world’s worst levels of PM10 air pollution. But although the results are lethal, the problem is not taken seriously here.

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Cooking fires and burning rubbish have contributed to record-setting levels of air particulates in Onitsha, Nigeria, according to WHO measurements made in 2016. Photograph: Hadassah Egbedi for the Guardian

 

Approaching Okpoko market through thick smog on the back of an okada (motorcycle taxi), the natural reaction is to cover your nose to protect yourself from the dust storm – but the effort is futile.

When a lorry zooms past, kicking up yet another red cloud of dirt, a trader turns the head of a sleeping toddler away from the road, a protective act that is as poignant as it is pointless.

This is a typical day in the southern Nigerian port city of Onitsha – which last year gained notoriety when it was ranked the worst city in the world for the staggering levels of PM10 particulate matter in its air.

Onitsha’s mean annual concentration was recorded at 594 micrograms per cubic metre by the World Health Organization – massively exceeding the WHO’s annual guideline limit for PM10s of 20μg/m3.

PM10 refers to coarse dust particles between 10 and 2.5 micrometres in diameter, while PM2.5s are even finer and more dangerous when inhaled, settling deep in a person’s lungs. Sources of both include dust storms, gases emitted by vehicles, all types of combustion, and industrial activities such as cement manufacturing, construction, mining and smelting. Onitsha scores highly on most of the above – as do other rapidly growing Nigerian cities such as Kaduna, Aba and Umuahia, all of which also featured in the WHO’s 20 worst offenders for PM10s.

In Onitsha’s very busy Okpoko market, my air quality monitor registers 140 for PM10s and 70 for PM2.5s – all way over recommended healthy levels, but still nothing compared to the readings triggered in other parts of this densely populated commercial and industrial hub.

The entire vicinity of the market is perpetually dusty, as wood-sellers saw lumber into different shapes and sizes. The air here is made worse by all the fine sand particles that fly off the back of trucks as they visit one of the many dredging companies on the bank of the River Niger, just behind the wood market.

 

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Some residents of Onitsha are unaware of the dangerous levels of pollution. Photograph: Hadassah Egbedi for the Guardian

One female traffic warden has been working in the same spot here for two days. How does she cope with the dust? “I am just doing my job,” she replies reluctantly. “Dust does not kill people.”

But she is mistaken. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), around 600,000 deaths throughout Africa every year are associated with air pollution, while an October 2016 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggested that polluted air could be killing 712,000 people prematurely every year across the continent.

The warden’s attitude towards this invisible but deadly threat is widespread among Onitsha’s residents – but not necessarily because they are nonchalant about their health. Most are simply unaware of the issue.

Some say they have more pressing concerns, such as how to feed their family. Others have simply become accustomed to living in a dirty and polluted environment.

Onitsha is grossly polluted – not just in terms of the air quality, but also the solid waste that litters the streets, blocking drainages and canals. With not a single waste bin in sight, heaps of unregulated rubbish dumps occupy roadsides and street corners.

 

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Rubbish clogs Onitsha’s streets, drainages and canals. Photograph: Hadassah Egbedi for the Guardian

Ikechukwu Obizue, a businessman in the neighbourhood of Nwangene, says residents can only do so much when there is little corresponding effort by the city’s government.

“Onitsha is quite dirty, but the government is not doing anything about it. We do environmental sanitation monthly, but then the city returns to being dirty,” Obizue says. “It is the government’s responsibility to keep the city clean, not the work of the residents – people in this city are too busy hustling to make an income.”

‘We don’t take air pollution seriously’

In Nwangene, my air monitor shows 667μg/m3 for PM10s – a reading in excess of the 594 annual figure that gave Onitsha its title of the world’s most polluted city. What’s more, the smaller and even more dangerous particulate (PM2.5) reading of 290 is far in excess of the WHO’s annual figure of 66.

The air quality proves just as bad at Ochanja market, with PM10s registered at 586 micrograms and PM2.5s at 266. Yet in these highly polluted areas, few people show any sign of trying to protect themselves from the threat.

There are only a few air masks in sight. A good number of aluminium and copper recyclers are not wearing masks, even while smelting metal scraps. Worse still, most smelting activities are done in the open, releasing monstrous clouds of smoke into the core of the city.

At one of the few state-approved dump sites on Creek Road, Ikechuckwu works at a smelting workshop. He is sweating profusely as he sits on a pile of ash, taking a break from work. He explains he has been smelting iron for a little over five years – but says not to worry about his health.

“I know how to take care of myself,” he brags. “I am not wearing a nose mask because I don’t need it. I take medicine to cater for my health.”

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Residents conduct a monthly cleanup, but the city quickly fills with waste again. Many locals blame government inaction for the problem. Photograph: Hadassah Egbedi for the Guardian

It is hard to determine to what extent these high concentrations of particles are affecting the residents of Onitsha, since there is no official data – but the health effects attributed to sustained exposure to PMs, especially PM2.5s, are well proven.

For a state government that can barely manage its waste disposal system, however, regulating its air quality appears a far-fetched aspiration. The now defunct Anambra State Environmental Protection Agency was widely criticised for failing in its responsibility to effectively tackle environmental pollution, and in its place, the Anambra State Waste Management Agency was created – with little effect.

The state’s Ministry of Environment, Beautification and Ecology did not respond to the Guardian’s questions regarding air pollution in Onitsha.

Tipping point: revealing the cities where exercise does more harm than good

In at least 15 cities, air pollution has now become so bad that the danger to health of just 30 minutes of cycling outweighs the benefits of exercise altogether, according to new research.

“The major problem is that we don’t take air pollution seriously in Nigeria,” says medical practitioner Dr Nelson Aluya. “As the population increases and we become more industrialised, we ought to have active air-monitoring agencies and a federal environmental protection agency. We say they are there – but are they active?”

In truth, air quality monitoring and control is not on the radar of many African governments. Nigeria has a long list of environmental protection laws and regulations that are barely enforced.

“Even in the healthcare sector,” Aluya continues, “there is no standardised care to monitor those who have chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases resulting from exposure to bad air, and no standard procedure in hospitals to check for oxygen levels.

“So you see, we are in deep trouble. If we have not recognised the fact there’s a problem, then how do we solve it? Unfortunately, people will keep dying as stakeholders remain nonchalant.”

 

Land subsidence causing San Francisco Tower’s Sinking Seen From Space?

This report by Associated Press summarizes how many factors can come into play when an engineering structure is failing or is responding to forces unleashed  on it after it has been completed. The forces could be man-made such as ground water abstraction or withdrawal or it could be due to structural geologic features that were overlooked or underestimated during the planning stages. The problem of the San Francisco tower should be a good interdisciplinary case study for students of building technology, geosciences and other related fields.

This blogger has discussed the recurring problem of collapsed  buildings in Lagos, Nigeria which could be due to uncontrolled withdrawal of ground water, poor geotechnical investigation before construction, poor building material and poor supervision by site engineers (https://weircentreforafrica.com/2012/11/24/collapsed-buildings-in-nigeria-thoughts-on-the-probable-causes/)

DEPO ADENLE, November 2016

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By JOCELYN GECKER, Associated November 29, 2016

leaningfriscotower

© The Associated Press The image provided by the European Space Agency ESA on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016, shows the Millennium Tower in San Francisco on the base of modified Copernicus Sentinel satellite data. The European Space Agency has released satellite…

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SAN FRANCISCO — Engineers in San Francisco have tunneled underground to try and understand the sinking of the 58-story Millennium Tower. Now comes an analysis from space.

The European Space Agency has released detailed data from satellite imagery that shows the skyscraper in San Francisco’s financial district is continuing to sink at a steady rate — and perhaps faster than previously known.

The luxury high-rise that opened its doors in 2009 has been dubbed the Leaning Tower of San Francisco. It has sunk about 16 inches into landfill and is tilting several inches to the northwest.

A dispute over the building’s construction in the seismically active city has spurred numerous lawsuits involving the developer, the city and owners of its multimillion dollar apartments.

Engineers have estimated the building is sinking at a rate of about 1-inch per year. The Sentinel-1 twin satellites show almost double that rate based on data collected from April 2015 to September 2016.

The satellite data shows the Millennium Tower sunk 40 to 45 millimeters — or 1.6 to 1.8 inches — over a recent one-year period and almost double that amount — 70 to 75 mm (2.6 to 2.9 inches) — over its 17-month observation period, said Petar Marinkovic, founder and chief scientist of PPO Labs which analyzed the satellite’s radar imagery for the ESA along with Norway-based research institute Norut.

“What can be concluded from our data, is that the Millennium Tower is sinking at a steady rate,” Marinkovic said in a telephone interview Monday from The Hague, Netherlands.

The data detected a small slowdown this summer but one that needs further analysis, he said, and does not change the overall data. “There is quite a steady subsidence.”

The Sentinel-1 study is not focused on the Millennium Tower but is part of a larger mission by the European Space Agency tracking urban ground movement around the world, and particularly subsidence “hotspots” in Europe, said Pierre Potin, Sentinel-1 mission manager for the ESA.

The ESA decided to conduct regular observations of the San Francisco Bay Area, including the Hayward Fault, since it is prone to tectonic movement and earthquakes, said Potin, who is based in Italy.

Data from the satellite, which is orbiting about 400 miles (700 kilometers) from the earth’s surface, was recorded every 24 days.

The building’s developer, Millennium Partners, insists the building is safe for occupancy and could withstand an earthquake.

The developer’s spokesman PJ Johnston said he had no direct comment on the satellite data but issued a statement saying that the Millennium Tower is a state-of-the-art building that was “designed and constructed to the extraordinarily high standards” mandated by San Francisco.

He reiterated the developers’ blame for the tower’s problems on the city’s construction of an adjacent railway station, which they say removed ground water from beneath the Millennium Tower that caused it to sink and tilt.

The city agency, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, blames the building’s “inadequate foundation” which is not anchored to bedrock. The tower is supported by piles driven 60 to 90 feet into landfill.

Engineers hired by the building and its developers have drilled deep holes around the building to test soil samples to determine if the building has stopped sinking, and if there’s a way to fix it.

One of the building’s tenants, Jerry Dodson, says that developers have given tenants the impression that the sinking was slowing and stopping.

“To have the space agency looking at it debunks what (developers) have put out there. Now we know it’s continuing to sink at an accelerated rate,” said Dodson, an attorney who has helped organize homeowners lawsuits. “I can tell you that satellite data is way more accurate that digging in the dirt.”

 

 

Importance of access to potable water for women in developing countries: The Case of Nigeria

This blogger attended a church service in Britain in early October 2016 where a video was shown about how the church’s Mission succeeded in improving access to potable water to the people of a rural community school in East Africa using a simple method of rain water harvesting. This simple, cheap method involves channeling rain water from roofs of school buildings into covered concrete cisterns.  Cisterns are often built to catch and store rainwater.

The video brought back childhood memories concerning the challenges we faced searching for water which are similar to the current challenges rural communities face in  some parts of Nigeria for example a rural community in Benue State.

In Osogbo (my home town) our challenges can be summarized by taking a walk down memory lane as regards what happened to women and kids fetching water for household use in the mid-fifties. At that time we did not have piped borne water and we depended on two spring sources – one yields drinkable water while the other can be referred to as non-drinkable.

The drinkable source was an unprotected (i.e. uncovered) but developed spring source. It consisted of metal drums about 30 inches in diameter and 36 inches high jammed into the bed of a small wetland (akuro in Yoruba or fadama in World Bank parlance). It is referred to as adun mu (good tasty water)! We need to remember that good quality water has no taste. This source provided drinking water to people within a radius of about 11/2 miles, an area of dense population. Fetching water at this source involved long periods of queuing, especially during the dry seasons. Tempers usually become frayed which more often than not ended in shouting matches and at times fistfights.

The king’s wives also fetch their water here.  Whenever they came to fetch water, traditionally they were not supposed to queue at the spring source. The locals and the uneducated respected this tradition which was challenged by non-indigenes and new educated elites. This happened to be one of the beginning trends in the erosion of the traditional customs of the Yorubas in my area.

The non-drinkable source was called okanla, also a spring source. Its water had an awful taste possibly because it contained large amounts of dissolved solids. It was used for laundry. Osun River water was also used for laundry but was far from the populated area of the town.

The challenges the rural community faced in Benue State is well illustrated in the words of an elderly borehole water pump operator at Eja community (Oju LGA) in 2005. He stated that pregnancy was a rarity during the dry seasons before the WaterAid  water supply intervention because of the arduous task of walking long distances, carrying 25 litres of water, over steep inclines which usually resulted in miscarriages. He further noted that because women spent most nights away from home looking for water threatened the stability of their marriages.  Furthermore, most men wanted to avoid getting into a situation that was not in the interest of their spouses’ health.

Generally, communities obtain water from two sources – surface water and ground water. Surface water sources include streams, lakes, springs, wet lands, rain and rain water harvesting. Ground water sources comprise hand-dug wells, water supply boreholes.  For the purpose of this essay we will concentrate on potable water derived from these sources. This blog will also wish to consider another grouping of sources of water: sustained and un-sustained/transient sources.

Data on access to potable water by donors, states and institutions are at times based on total number of water points constructed, customer enumeration surveys and certain analytical and statistical methods. Experiences have shown that once water points are constructed, several factors affect whether they are functional for a reasonable length of time or non-functional within a few months of their completion. Such water points are here referred to as transient or sustained.  Access to potable water data are therefore estimates instead of computed or measured. It is not possible to have accurate data on access to potable water because access data only measures the situation at a time like a snap shot.

Water Sources could be transient for the following reasons:

  • Water points constructed, e.g. by the Federal Government of Nigeria, which do not have community based institutions to manage them (such points usually fall into disrepair once any part of the physical facility fails);
  • Those constructed by contractors that did a poor job such that the water points fail as soon as they are handed over to the community. The picture below is that of a water supply borehole at Bembe in Aiyedaade Local Government area, Osun State.
FGN Rural Borehole at Bembe near Orile Owu Osun state

FGN Rural Borehole at Bembe village near Orile Owu, Osun State, Nigeria

At this community the blogger was surprised to see people drawing water from a hand-dug well right next to a motorized water supply borehole constructed by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The villagers told the blogger that the borehole was only functional for a few months. This kind of facility is considered transient or un-sustained.

Uncoordinated investment in Nigeria’s water sector which has resulted in huge numbers of water points constructed by the RBDAs, for example, which are not handed over to the states or the communities and which are thus not being used but are recorded as water points serving certain numbers of people in the access data.

Other water points fail shortly after completion because of poor monitoring and reporting as well as the attitude of communities towards government properties and over reliance of these communities on government to do everything for them. Once such points fail, repairs that may cost just pittance will be left while awaiting government assistance. Such points which may have been added to the access data will fall in the category of transient water supply source.

In order to have fairly reliable estimate the WHO and UNICEF jointly organized a Rapid Assessment of Drinking Water Quality (RADWQ) in Nigeria in 2010. It was reported that though the methodology used worked well in Nigeria, but that the methodology needed some improvement. One key improvement sought would require visit to water sampling sites after selecting them to physically locate the sites because some sites visited by the teams did not have the technology allocated to them in the initial design of the project. The above case of Bembe in Ayedaade LGA, Osun State buttresses this point.

Table 2.2 of RADWQ report is on “Household access to water supplies” for each state. The table provides information on whether the households have improved or unimproved technology access. Improved technologies access comprise piped water, borehole, tubewells, protected dug wells, tankers and vendors. Unimproved technologies access comprise ponds, streams, rainwater and unprotected dug wells. The table noted that 51.5% of households have access to water from improved technology sources and that this estimate will go down to 47.1 % if water supplied by tanker truck or animal-drawn tankers is excluded from the analysis.

Charitywater.org/whywater/ summarizes how lack of access impacts the lives of women in the third world in four major ways.  The narrative above about the impacts of the activities of that Christian Mission in East Africa, mentioned above and that of the WaterAid in Nigeria  are suitably captured in these four major ways below:

  • Health
    • Diseases from dirty water kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
    • 43% of those deaths are children under five years old. Access to clean water and basic sanitation can save around 16,000 lives every week.
  • TIME
    • In Africa alone, women spend 40 billion hours a year walking for water.
    • Access to clean water gives communities more time to grow food, earn an income, and go to school — all of which fight poverty.
  • EDUCATION
    • Clean water helps keep kids in school, especially girls.
    • Less time collecting water means more time in class. Clean water and proper toilets at school means teenage girls don’t have to stay home for a week out of every month.
  • WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
    • Women are responsible for 72% of the water collected in Sub-Saharan Africa.
    • When a community gets water, women and girls get their lives back. They start businesses, improve their homes, and take charge of their own futures.

Update on Privatization of water supply in Lagos State

This blog has expressed concerns about the dangers of carrying out privatization exercise without involving all stakeholders in the process: (https://weircentreforafrica.com/2015/02/27/privatisation-of-water-supply-in-developing-economies-lagos-state-case/). It also provided information about the views and concerns of the USA Congressional Black Caucus on the same issue (https://weircentreforafrica.com/2015/06/23/congressional-black-caucus-against-lagos-water-privatisation/). That was in 2015, when Lagos State sort of took some kind of time out on the issue. 

Apparently the State is about to reopen the issue of privatization and a civil society group has come alerted the citizens of the state by raising the necessary red flag as shown below.

DEPO ADENLE.

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Lagos Water Privatization: Group urges Ambode to halt secret concession of water infrastructure

by Ben Ezeamalu, Premium Times, April 19

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) has urged Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to halt  his ongoing concession of water infrastructure in the state.

Akinbode Oluwafemi, a deputy Director at ERA/FoEN, said the governor should declare his stance on the controversial Public Private Partnership of the water sector.

“As we have said time and again, the failure of the Lagos State government to open up on the controversial water PPP gives room for us to suspect that something is in the offing and the people are deliberately being kept in the dark,” said Mr. Oluwafemi.

“We cannot stop demanding that the rights of Lagos citizens to a free gift of nature must not be subject to the dictates of privatizers whose only interest is profit.

“Worse is the fact that the Lagos State government is toying with a failed model of PPP that the World Bank private arm – International Finance Corporation  (IFC) advised it to embark upon even with documented failures in Manila and Nagpur, in the Philippines and India respectively.”

The group also accused the Lagos State government of failing to take a clear stance on the controversy surrounding the PPP advisory contract that the World Bank was forced to cancel last year, following pressures by labour and civil society.

“At a rally organised in March 17, 2016 by the Africa Water Hygiene and Sanitation Network (AWWWASHNET) in Lagos, Permanent Secretary, Mr Biodun Bamgboye debunked the PPP plans saying the Governor had no plans to privatise water,” Mr. Oluwafemi said.

“Suprisingly, Governor Ambode was quoted as saying PPP was the way to go just two days after.