By Samson Ezea
The perennial water problem in Enugu State has increasingly become a major source of worry and indeed an index of the decay in the Coal City. For years, several reasons, including the topography, sabotage and soil texture of the state, have been adduced as major challenges of getting regular portable water in Enugu metropolis and its environs.
As convincing and factual as these reasons may sound, nobody can sincerely and boldy say that successive governments did not make appreciable efforts to improve on what they met on the ground. This is a statement of fact because I can vividly recall that as a young primary school pupil in my community in Aku in Igbo-Etiti LGA in the early 80s, I enjoyed unhindered access to pipe borne water that ran thrice in a week.
There was a water borehole at a place called Ishi Engine before St. James Catholic Church, Aku, and a huge water reservoir at Egbugwu Hill Nua, Aku. When water was pumped from the borehole to the reservoir, it would be reticulated through well-laid pipes to taps across villages and families in my town. Having water tap in your compound or home was a measure of opulence in my town then. Workers of the State Water Corporations were effective and resident in my community then.They had office and responded to challenges or problems promptly.
The situation remained the same even in the early 90s when I was leaving secondary school. Residents of Nsukka metropolis and its environs enjoyed constant pipe borne water. Enugu metropolis was not left out also with a functional Water Corporation Head office and a full complement of qualified engineers and other personnel.
It appeared that with the advent of democracy in 1999, the state of steady pipe borne water supply collapsed across Enugu State. Bureaucratic bottleneck, sabotage, corruption, negligence, favouritism, and compromise took the centre stage and precedence over competence, altruism, political will power and patriotism.
That was how and when pipe borne water stopped running in my community, and some parts of Enugu. Constant and effective maintenance, replacement, and upgrading of water facilities and equipment came to a halt. As an undergraduate in the late 90s and early 2000s in Enugu, I started seeing water tankers supplying water to hostels and residents across the Enugu metropolis.
As days, weeks, months, and years passed by, the situation deteriorated with no clear solution in sight, possibly because successive governments never made it a top priority. Water tankers took over Enugu streets, including Government House and government offices. Pipe borne water became a scarce commodity.
I am quite aware that successive governments in the state made several efforts in tackling the rots and problems of water in the state, the impact was not felt much because of the depth and enormity of the challenges and lack of sincerity of purpose in some cases.I am not unmindful of the fact that the immediate past administration had before leaving the office recovered some abandoned boreholes at Okwojo Ngwo.
Sincerely and despite being one of his supporters and campaign officials, I was among those who were skeptical when during the campaign the PDP governorship candidate and now Governor Peter Mbah, promised Ndi Enugu that he will give them water within the first 180 days in office. My skepticism was based on the fact that if Mbah’s predecessors could not tackle the perennial water problem in Enugu for more two decades, what magic will Mbah do in 180 days to give Enugu people water, considering the magnitude of the problem in the water sector. I was not the only sceptic. There were many others as well.
When on assumption of office, Governor Mbah appointed a foreigner, Dr. Andreas Gebauer to take charge of the Enugu State Water Corporation and criticisms and mixed-up reactions trailed it, I was among those who supported the appointment. My support emanated from the fact and conviction that Governor Mbah should be allowed to pick whoever will give him results irrespective of tribe or religion.
Besides, I strongly believed that Governor Mbah must have done his homework and due diligence before settling for the foreigner with outstanding trackrecord and expertise. What should be of utmost importance and concern is that Enugu people have constant water supply and not who gives it and how. People are not interested in who mans the water sector. They are only interested in enjoying steady water; after all, indigenes have been manning it before now without a great breakthrough or result.
As Enugu people and residents anxiously await Governor Mbah to fulfill his campaign promise of giving them water within the first 180 days in office, developments and signals emanating from the water sector so far are cheering, positive and gladdening. If what has been trending on social media and traditional media about the works in the water sector which have been been verified are anything go by, it simply means that there is light at the end of the tunnel and Governor Mbah is poised to break the jinx and prove bookmakers wrong by giving Ndi Enugu water within 180 days in office as promised. Governor Mbah is quite aware of the huge expectations and that all eyes are on him.
According to the trending pictures and videos of the works so far in the water sector, 2 of the 18 new industrial boreholes were already being test run at 9th Mile, with each borehole producing 150,000 liters of water per hour. The 18 boreholes alone, with a combined capacity of 64M litres daily, can produce enough water for Enugu city. The Oji River and Ajalli water schemes are also being reactivated to boost water supply to Enugu metropolis and environs. Also procured already are pipes to be used in reticulation of the water and replacement of dilapidated and vandalized pipes.
It was disclosed that the snippets from the water sector were just a tip of iceberg of what have been done and will be done in the sector before the expiration of 180 days to enable Enugu residents enjoy steady water as promised by Governor Mbah.
If Governor Mbah fulfills his campaign promise of giving Enugu residents water within his first 180 days, which looks possible and realiseable now, considering the massive works done and ongoing so far, Mbah would have succeeded in solving half of the people’s problems in the metropolis and written his name in the sands of time. The residents of the metropolis will heave a sigh of relief and be saved from the exploitation of the water tanker owners and drivers that have taken advantage of the perennial water problem to deal with them. The cost of living in Enugu State would be reduced drastically as residents will now save huge money, they often spend in purchasing water they are not sure of its source and hygiene from tanker drivers.
Governor Mbah would have succeeded in reviving so many industries and small-scale businesses that have gone moribund due to their inability to source or purchase good pipe borne water at ease and at affordable prices in the state. Businesses will surely bounce back; jobs will be created and life will be more comfortable for residents of state because water is life. It is an indispensable commodity in the lives of human beings.
If Governor Mbah gets the intractable water problem in Enugu metropolis right, there is need for his administration to extend the magic and gesture to other places and communities like Nkanu, Awgu, Oji River and Nsukka, where the Adada River if properly harnessed can supply the entire Enugu North Senatorial zone and its environs with pipe borne water.