Next to carbon, water is the most important element on earth. Water plays a central and critical role in all aspects of life – in the national environment, economy, food security, production, and in politics. The inadequacy in the supply and access to drinking water has only recently taken centre stage in global reflection as a serious and threatening phenomenon. Communities and individuals can exist even for substantial periods without many essential goods but human being, however, cannot survive a few days without drinking water.
Water is much more than just a basic human need. It is an essential, irreplaceable element to ensuring the continuance of life. It is intrinsically linked to fundamental human rights such as the right to life, to food and to health. Access to clean drinking water as described by the United Nation General Assembly is a necessity and a basic human right.
While the United Nation recognised access to drinking water as a basic human rights, signifying that every living human must be accorded the right to an easy access to safe drinking water, the availability of the former still poses a serious threat to majority of Sakkwatawa, many of whom confront daily the situation of an inadequate water supply and the very serious resulting consequences.
In our rural communities today, the challenge of accessing clean drinking water is enormous as women and children are seen all over trekking long distances to fetch water from streams, ponds and local wells, most of which are contaminated and unsafe for consumption. In the so-called Sokoto city, a large proportion of people still lack access, thus compelling those who can afford it to dug boreholes indiscriminately, an act which constitutes its own tragedy as it undermines the water table and threatens future supply of the commodity. While those who can’t afford it relied on commercial water vendors for supply.
Sokoto is richly blessed with abundant water resources but largely untapped. In spite of the abundant resources, both the state and local governments have failed to successfully harness these resources to ensure a sustainable and equitable access to safe, adequate, improved and affordable water supply to the common man. Many people living in the state particularly in the rural communities, are currently facing an enormous hardship because water supplies are neither sufficient nor safe. For several people living in state, water scarcity is rapidly becoming an issue crucial for life and, in the broad sense of the concept, a right to life issue.
In the absence of water from piped supplies and protected wells, millions of people living in the state are forced to consume what is available – unhygienic and contaminated waters largely from local vendors, wells, streams and ponds. Thus, directly endangering the social well-being of the people and giving life to several forms of waterborne diseases as well as adding another burden on the state public health service since water remain one of the major primary driver of public health.
While the state capital city is facing a decline in supply, the rural areas are even not in the picture. The state government is giving less or no priority to rural water supply, Local government councils often do not have the funds to make necessary improvements and can instead be compel to use short-term solutions which cannot be maintained by the communities who need them.
The gospel truth is that the water infrastructure currently available in Sokoto State is suffering from severe neglect, both successive regimes did very little in this regard while the present administration have totally failed to maintain the existing infrastructure not to mention of establishing new ones. In essence, Sokoto state is today existing with neither a standard water plan nor policy despite the huge resources allocated to the sector annually. Billions enough to provide adequate drinking water for the entire North-West region have been spent so far on the state water sector since the return of democracy in 1999, yet, the problem continue to escalate, forcing millions to live with the monster of water scarcity as their lifetime companion.
What the foregoing denotes most eloquently is that the problem of water scarcity currently ravaging Sokoto state is a serious issue that must be tackled. The government, at every level, should invest more in the provision of drinking water for the people. Provision of standard water infrastructure, upgrading existing ones and proper water management is therefore perhaps the most important requirement for solving water scarcity in the state. More attention must be given to coordination and cooperation between all actors in the water industry at all levels.
Public private partnership can also play an important role in providing access to clean drinking water, provided that the state government has the political will and stakeholders work together for a common goal: that of guaranteeing access to safe and clean drinking water for all. This does not undermine the role of the State in fostering the realization of the right to access to safe and clean drinking water.
Usama A. Dandare, a social commentator write from Sokoto. [email protected]
Usama Adamu Dandare