The lack of drinking water and dangers of water boreholes

by Emeka Chiakwelu

In classical physics, the study of fundamental principle of matter gave us the law of conservation of matter which states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Water is a matter and the quantity of water in Nigeria has not been altered. Therefore when we say that we lack water in Nigeria, it is a false premise because the rivers, lakes, streams and waters of Nigeria have not disappeared. What we lack is the clean and drinking water in Nigeria. Our government inability to deliver drinkable water to the citizens at the dawn of 21st century is one of most difficult thing to fathom.

In terms of provision of drinking water to poor populace, we do not have to necessarily compare Nigeria to America, Britain or Western countries. African countries and third world countries with GDP one third of Nigeria have adequate and clean water supplies to its citizenry. NO! We cannot journey oversea to make the comparison, we can just start from Nigeria’s neighbor in West Africa – countries like Ghana, Togo, Chad and many others are providing sanitized tap drinkable water to its citizens but the so-called giant of Africa with its enormous resources and huge foreign reserve cannot do it.

Nigeria of 1960s, 70s and even early 80s was doing it and providing treated drinking water to the people of Nigeria. But at a point with bulging population, poor planning and corruption diverted the professionalism of the Ministry of Water Works and turned into an incompetent and do-nothing entity.

Nigeria has abundant fresh water: Groundwater, rivers and lakes that can be channeled into Ministry of Water Works or Treatment plants. With application of chlorination and filtration procedures it will be ready for human consumption. The human capitals in terms of technical know-how are available and the technology for water purification is not an intricate methodology. Nigerians with GCE ordinary levels and secondary education can operate and manage water treatment plants.

The costs of setting up water treatment plants are minimal compare to the waste that Nigeria accumulated when she lunched the fallen satellite (NigComSat-1). The multi-million dollar Nigerian satellite (NigComSat-1) built and launched by the Chinese in May 2007, was shut down to prevent it spinning out of control and damaging others in orbit. The satellite project an example of a “white elephant in space” was a waste of time and resources. The billions of naira invested in the satellite technology can be utilized to solve the earthly problem of the supply of borne tap water to struggling villages in the interior of Nigeria.

UNESCO documented that, “Water-related diseases are among the most common causes of illness and death, affecting mainly the poor in developing countries. They kill more than 5 million people every year, more than ten times the number killed in wars. The diseases can be divided into four categories: water-borne, water-based, water-related, and water-scarce diseases.”

The consequences of drinking contaminated and polluted water in Nigeria come with a terrible and devastating cost. The cost and damage brought by drinking of parasite infected water with its borne diseases are very expensive which mostly affect new born babies and children. This is a major contributory to the abysmal high infant mortality rate in Africa and Nigeria in particular. This cannot be write off easily in same manner Nigeria treat anything important to the wellbeing of the nation.

Waterborne diseases have causative agents and “are caused by pathogenic microorganisms which are directly transmitted when contaminated fresh water is consumed. Contaminated fresh water, used in the preparation of food, can be the source of food borne disease through consumption of the same microorganisms. According to the World Health Organization, diarrheal disease accounts for an estimated 4.1% of the total DALY global burden of disease and is responsible for the deaths of 1.8 million people every year. It was estimated that 88% of that burden is attributable to unsafe water supply, sanitation and hygiene, and is mostly concentrated in children in developing countries. Waterborne disease can be caused by protozoa, viruses, or bacteria, many of which are intestinal parasites,” according to Wikipedia.

Nigeria according to UN’s IRIN humanitarian information unit, “Guinea worm and onchocerchiasis( River blindness) are endemic water-borne diseases in certain parts of Africa’s most populous country (Nigeria) of more than 120 million people. UNICEF had decided to emphasise water and environmental sanitation after realising that the occurrence of diarrhea, a major childhood killer in Nigeria, could decline by 15 percent if water quality was improved, Ackers said in the capital Abuja. Increasing the quantity of available water, he added, would lower the incidence of diarrhea by 22 percent. In combination with improved hygiene, the incidence could further drop by up to 35 percent while adding safe disposal of feces would lower this by 40 percent.”

In search of drinking water
Due to the government inefficiency especially on the States and Local government levels, the energetic and pragmatic Nigerians are restoring to digging water boreholes for our children and families to quench the water thirst. The people cannot wait any longer for their elected officials, who refused to do the job of providing clean water to their neglected constituents.

Gradually the governments are joining the people in digging water boreholes and even appointing commissioners who channel funds for the project. This might look good even sounds good but the government in this case is in the wrong direction. The government should go and resuscitate the dormant water work plants and rebuild them. Then start providing tap drinking water and not digging boreholes.

Most of these boreholes are exposed to underground pathogens and pollutants especially E-coli that is responsible for stomach upset that comes with diarrhea and massive lose of fluids. In the undergrounds the water might also be exposed to the natural radioactive nuclides and nature’s occurring hazardous metals (As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Hg, Mn, Ni, Pb, Sn, and Tl) these heavy metals as they are called are toxic with carcinogenic properties. Therefore it is highly recommended and intrinsic that water from the boreholes is sampled for laboratory analysis and bio-chemical analytical before consumption.

The ubiquitous drilling and digging of the ground soil for water may weaken the soil surface with an enhanced porosity. With such vulnerability and lesser cohesion, the ephemeral soil might trigger erosion. These erosion gullies are already prevalent in Anambra State and southeastern Nigeria; therefore further drilling of water boreholes may thicken the situation.

On this World Water Day, Nigerian government must understand the ramification of abandoning its basic responsibility to the people. The government should provide to the people of Nigeria treated and drinkable water.

Dedicated to the World Water Day.

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1 comment

Medugu victor March 27, 2010 - 7:57 pm

You have spoken well. Truely the lack of a natural resource such as water has tremendous effect on d lives and living pattern of the people of Nigeria. UN Report on water and sanitation reports that more than 1.2billion of the world’s population lack drinking water and sanitation facilities. That’s a huge figure. Yes, i agree that so much needs to be done in this regard but thanks to MDG’s water and sanitation projects the people are begining to access potable water. I want to remind all of us that drilling boreholes maybe the only means for getting water across to most rural dwellers. Otherwise they wil resort to stagnant ponds with host of water related infections. Most and bulk of illnesses experienced in rural Nigeria can be associated with lack of potable water especially skin related illnesses. I have been previlaged to work as a project manager for some MDG projects in sokoto and plateau state. I saw first hand what joy is brought to a village when a project is completed and the taps spill out water. The feeling is exhilarating. The drilling of boreholes do not weaken the ground and lead to erosion. Erosion is chiefly caused by land degradation-deforestation, indiscrimate felling of trees- but this is a topic for another day. Overall we score the Nigerian goverment 22% on this world water day. We must do more.


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