Communities find water, decades after
By Chris Oji
The Nation, 01/06/2012
The days of thirst are over. So is the era of trekking for kilometers on end just to find water.
For the people of Umuika-Enuogo Nkerefi community in Nkanu East Local Government Area, Enugu State, it is a whole new world.
The community had been without water for decades. Sourcing good water took over many kilometers, making the liquid even more precious than crude oil or gold.
But now, their agony is over. A borehole scheme initiated under 2009 MDG/CGS water projects has been completed and inaugurated by the state government.
The handing over of the water project to the Umuika– Enuogo Nkerefi community has brought to an end decades of water scarcity in the community and its neighbouring communities.
Speaking at the handover ceremony, the Managing Director of Enugu State Rural Water supply and Sanitation Agency (En-RUWASSA), Mr. Mike Cole Oguamah stated that the stream impoundment at Nkerefi was a pilot project developed by the Enugu State government as an alternative to providing safe drinking water to communities all the year round.
He said a geological survey had shown that construction of deep motorised boreholes would not be feasible, while shallow boreholes always dry up during the dry season.
Oguamah disclosed that the project has a concrete reservoir and overhead tank with a capacity of about 100,000 cubic metres of water, intake, treatment and filtration plants as well as reticulated to about 3km from the reservoir.
He explained that with time, reticulation would be extended to other parts of the community.
He charged the water management committee to ensure that everybody had access to the water as well as to make sure that all the clans that made up Enuogu-Nkerefi were represented in the committee, and that the security of the project must never be compromised.
The benefitting communities expressed their joy as they saw water in their neighbourhood. They thanked Governor Sullivan Chime.
Handing over the water scheme to the community, the commissioner for Budget and Planning and chairman of MDG Oversight Committee, Dr. K. O. Agbowo stated that since Enugu State government spent huge amounts of money to build the water scheme at no cost to the community, it is now left for the community to devise the best way to raise money to maintain the project.
Agbowo pointed out that the project would not only serve the community’s water needs but would also reduce drastically the incidents of water-borne diseases which were present in the area and the medical expenses the villagers incur as a result of such diseases.
Other neighbouring communities that requested for the extension of the water to their villages were informed by the commissioner that water was for all but they should liaise first with the water management committee to discuss the modalities for the extension in “the spirit of Governor Sullivan Chime’s desire to provide safe drinking water to the people of Enugu State.
The Umuika-Enuogo Nkerefi community through the chairman of the water management committee, Mr. Kingsley Ogbu expressed gratitude to the state government for citing the project, the first of its kind in their community.
He said that before now the the issue of safe drinking water had been a nightmare to the community against the background that it was a guinea worm endemic community
This is good news for the Umuika-Enuogo Nkerefi community.
However, the way this is reported leaves one wondering whether this scheme is a borehole-based water supply scheme or a surface water-based scheme. This needs to be clarified.
Secondly, from the report, it appears there was no wide consultation in the community before the project was conceived, planned, developed and constructed as implied in the words of the Planning and Chairman of MDG Oversight Committee, Dr. K. O. Agbowo:
“…since Enugu State government spent huge amounts of money to build the water scheme at no cost to the community, it is now left for the community to devise the best way to raise money to maintain the project.”
If the community was properly consulted before the construction of this scheme, post- construction operation and maintenance system of the scheme would have been put in place. It would not have been necessary for Dr. Agbowo to inform the community during the handing- over ceremony that the community has to devise the best way to raise money to maintain the project. The cart was put before the horse.
In similar donor-assisted projects, a Water Consumers Association (WCA) or Community Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Committees (WASHCOMS) would have been formed that would be responsible for collecting tariff and maintenance of this project so that it would not end up abandoned like most other government projects that were executed using a top-down approach.
A factor that has been identified for failure of water supply schemes is that communities do not have a sense of ownership when they do not contribute towards a project.
However little, it is important if the Umuika-Enuogo Nkerefi community had contributed something towards this project in order to guarantee the success of this project.