Investigation

Taps run dry after N300 million spent in Enugu communities (2)

In this concluding part, ARINZE CHIJIOKE, highlighted how various WASH programmes have not tackled perennial water issues in the country.

In spite of the testimonies of the Obinofia Ndiuno people, the traditional ruler of Emeora Neke, where some of the water projects are located, Silas Udeogu, vehemently rejected the idea of the projects, which he called White Elephant. According to Udeogu boreholes would not work in Isi Uzo, giving the prevalence of rocks underground. He said he drew the attention of the contractors (WaterAid) to the fact that the only solution to years of perennial water scarcity in Isi Uzo would be the filtering of its streams including Amanyi and Eme, which are not seasonal.

“We have conducted a geological study and found out that water was a major problem. I suggested that the organisation conduct their survey. If our streams are filtered and a very giant reservoir provided, it could supply water to communities,” he explained. Udeogu told this reporter that one of the boreholes at Nkwo is currently being used by a woman who is mentally sick and only gets one bucket daily from it which she uses to bathe. Contractor blames poor delivery on geology Abuchi Ndukwe, one of the contractors, who handled the projects in Ugwuaji and owner of Morikem Global Investment, agreed that Enugu State has a major challenge of water due to the geology of some of the areas, which makes it hard to get water.

He said it was the same problem in Isi Uzo and other communities where the projects are not functioning as they should and that a survey was conducted and it was discovered that there was low water discharge in the areas. The solution, Ndukwe said, is for the state government to dig about five boreholes within the Night Mile, where there is sufficient ground water as that, according to him, can sustain 100 horsepower pumps each and extend it to towns in Enugu. He said: “That was the problem in Ugwuaji. Even when you drill water, it dries up during the peak of dry season.

So, the problem was the geology of the area.” Ndukwe said that usually, one finds water projects that cannot last throughout the season and can dry up after sometime. But if one is able to get to the water table, it will last longer and the level of the water table can change over time because of changes in weather cycles and precipitation patterns, stream flow and geologic changes. From a geology experts point of view A former Head of Geology Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Professor Smart Obiora, also aligned with both Udeogu and Ndukwe’s position.

He confirmed that the geology of a particular area must be considered before a borehole drilling process commences. According to him, Enugu generally is a very bad place to drill for water and you can hardly find the rocks that can store water, although people have been making efforts and drilling wells. “If you don’t have the necessary rock, what is called an aquifer, which can contain and also be able to release water in abundance, it will be hard. If you are not within the water table, the hope of getting water is slim and even if you do, it will dry up easily,” he explained. Aquifer refers to when a water-bearing rock readily transmits water to wells and springs.

The rate of recharge is not the same for all aquifers, though and that must be considered when pumping water from a well. Projects worked at inauguration -WaterAid The Enugu State Programme Lead for WaterAid, Terkimbi Tom, said that at the time of commissioning, the five boreholes drilled in Ugwuaji were working well and that if they have stopped working, then it is because of the nature of the area. Tom also confirmed that there are places where one can hardly get water at the peak of the dry season like in some of the locations where boreholes were rehabilitated.

He said: “I’m surprised to hear that the places where we drilled have stopped working. It would not have been as a result of failure on our part because we are professionals. We did what we could do. But we don’t have control over the geology of these places.” He said the state government monitored the projects to ensure that they met the specifications as getting locations to drill in Ugwuaji, for instance, was a problem because “we had to do a lot of geophysical surveys.”

However, in reaction to our first part of the story published April 17, the Country Director, WaterAid Nigeria, Evelyn Mere, said: “Water points were successfully installed at places of the community’s choosing or repaired and formally handed over to the communities in December 2020. In addition, the Zonal Water Quality Laboratory of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in Enugu State performed water quality analyses for each water point, which confirmed that water was safe for consumption and met national quality standards. “WaterAid’s investigation shows that out of 18 water points constructed or rehabilitated through this project, five have dried up from seasonal drought (Isi-Uzo) but will work again in the rainy season; one has been vandalised (Isi-Uzo); and two are broken and pending repair (Uzo Uwani and Enugu South). WaterAid fully expects the dry water points in Isi-Uzo to supply water as the rainy season intensifies.”

The organisation added: “Four out of the five pumps are fully functional, verified by WaterAid inspections on March 11 and 30 and April 19. One of the pumps is currently awaiting repair after recent damage caused by children playing unsupervised. It is expected to be working by May 5. Repairs will be made in Uzo Uwani as soon as it is safe to travel there. “The water crisis in Enugu is acute and complex.

In many parts of Enugu, WaterAid’s geological surveys show that drilling for a reliable water source is extremely challenging. At times, boreholes may run dry. WaterAid discussed this challenge with the community in advance of the project. We have offered training to community members to mitigate water scarcity through water conservation and rainwater harvesting. “WaterAid has strict protocols in place to ensure that communities own and are involved in every step of the project. This is key to the sustainability of our work. We train and support local water communities to take ownership of each water facility and work hand-in-hand (sic) with communities and local leaders to ensure proper maintenance. Community members ensure sustainability of facilities by paying a small fee to their water committee, the amount of which they agree to beforehand. In addition, WaterAid conducts post-project surveys to assess the sustainability of our programmes, identify areas of learning and inform future programmes and projects.”

State government not aware of the development When the state government was contacted for a reaction, the Special Adviser to the governor on Water Resources, Dubem Onyia, said he was not aware that some of the projects had stopped working. He, however, said that the government would complain to the organisations that brought the projects to see if anything can be done about it. “If they don’t do anything, we will look at it because we are the beneficiaries. The organisations only came to invest,” he said. This investigative report was supported by MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.

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