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NIGERIA WATER RESOURCES AND MANAGEMENT: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECT.
Nigeria is a coastal nation with an undisputed marine jurisdiction over the physical, chemical and biological resources exploitation within a distance of 320 km nautical kilometers (853 km2) into the Atlantic Ocean (FAO, 2014), notably in the Southern part of Nigeria, excluding others rivers of economic importance such as, River Niger and Benue to the North.
The country’s water resources, which lies on latitude 4° 10′ to 6° 20′ N and longitude 2° 45′ to 8° 35′ E to the South and 7°20′N 8°45′E to North through Benue, has significantly contribution to livelihood, food security and the overall economy through agricultural development, aquatic and fisheries resources as well as fresh water resources.
Despite the huge water resources, there have been lingering problems of water management, in relation to quality, quantity and availability as well as, uses determination. Therefore, allowing for water management peculiarity and their challenges across Nigeria.
Nigeria has basically two major seasons, the wet usually in the months of November to March and dry, April to October. However, this is not so in the Northern part of Nigeria which experience a short wet season and only for four (4) months from June and September with scanty rainfall compare to the 2800mm estimated annual rainfall in the South.
Thus, weather and other climatic peculiarity that characterized the country’s regionally, and consequent challenges to water resource. For instance in the Southern part of Nigeria;
Owing to the huge water resources it is expected that, the region would enjoy abundant water supply, but is not so. Lagos-Nigeria for example, due the state proximity to the Atlantic Ocean is faced with water quality, inundation and flooding problems due to the very high water table near the earth surface.
The quality of their fresh water resources has been compromise from underground water aquifer pollution, siltation as a result of fresh water –ocean mix, and flooding which comes with impurities.
The major Nigerian Niger Delta States, namely Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Calabar threatened by recurrent flooding including Lagos staff, suffers more from the activities of major oil & gas companies operating in the region, thus oil spillages.
There are specific standards which have been adopted; either from World Health Organization (WHO) or United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), to access and monitor drinking and/or industrial water quality.
Sadly, the activities of this oil and gas companies have increased their levels (trace metals and sometimes indirectly nutrient) in the water and/or introduce substances reported of serious ecological and human health implications, and have been documented extensively in the region.
Surprisingly in Edo State (specifically Ekpoma, Irrua and Uromi), which is one of the Niger Delta State, suffers from not just water quality but water resource availability and quantity, due to the state’s geological formation and low water table. In fact, there have been reports of government as well as wealthy individuals, engaging the services of water experts to search (drill) for drinking water sources underground to no success.
As result, the people have resulted to harvesting water directly from the rain (water capture) into locally dug wells during the rains, or patronize water vendors, whose of water are unknown or from rivers untreated into these wells during the dry season.
While in the Eastern Part of Nigeria, most places in the East has similar sorrowful scenario ranging from scarcity problems highlighted above for those areas in Edo State to quality. There are other painstaking challenges of pollution from soil weathering and erosion, open waste dumping and burning and poor urban management.
In the North of Nigeria, it is very different and worse with alarming cases of draught, thus water scarcity due to the scanty rainfall and forest cutting for farm lands, leading to desertification and climate change impact. It is even more saddened that, the presence of river Niger and Benue as well as the development of the Lake Chad Basin has not helped to attenuate the pains of the people.
In 2001, especially the 2012 flooding affected thirty (30) states in Nigeria (only six were partly excluded), which killed 363 people and rendering over 2.1 million people homeless in November 2012. Benue which is one of the Northern states alone recorded 33 deaths, made worse by the opening of the Lagdo Reservior in Cameroon.
Another major challenge to fresh water resource in Nigeria identified is climate change, which has further driven and heightened these problems, for example the quality, quantity and consequently on availability has helped to increase the incidence of water related diseases.
The institutional problem (s)
Nigeria which is party to over 82 environmental treaties and/or convention including convention of the maritime pollution by dumping waste and other matters, protocol relating to the development fund of the Niger Delta Basin and Framework Convention of Climate Change amongst others.
In a good direction, established the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in 1979, with a mandate to formulate the water national resources development policies as well as coordinate their development. The agency was empowered to ensure adequate water supply, develop a master plan for the development of dams, and importantly water supplies, explore and develop underground water resources and review water legislation from time to time.
Sadly, after forty (40) years of establishment, Nigeria is yet to be boosted with a well developed, documented and coordinated water plan, its availability and resource bank. The Public water utility once working have been moribund and with few states operating partially. As a result, the Nigeria people have resulted to providing their personally water supply.
One of such is the sinking of private boreholes, which is now the common fresh water source and available in most homes, except for areas with very low water table. This action no doubt will further stress the available water resources (with no available resource documentation/ records) and lead to aquifer and earth fragmentation.
Although Nigeria is signatory to several environmental and water agreement, it has also enacted, promulgated and adopted several water management strategies and plan workable elsewhere. But the under development of the sector is a reflection of the institutions saddled with its responsibility and monitoring.
Today, the quality of the available waters are questionable and unfortunately, not well monitored. The so-called pure water (package water) sold to the public, have most of them without manufactory details and/or sources as well as production monitoring. That notwithstanding, there are few with proper quality check and approved by the approval agencies.
Nigeria which fresh water resources has fallen below Global Water Partnership and Sustainable goals. The target now is to invest, institutionalize, develop policies and legal regime and financial stability for the sector, these can be salvaged as follows;
Overhaul and return to the original master plan and/or goals of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and their state counterparts.
Strengthen water governance with pragmatic look at water resource management.
Reinvent and reorganize the public water systems and supply across the country, with a mandate to provide clean and portable water for the people.
(iii) will help to reduce the stress on water resources and alteration of the earth surface, as well as cases of water borne diseases.
The regulatory agencies such as NAFDAC and others be professionalize and equipped the needed knowledge to certify water vendors and manufacturing companies.
There is need for government to increase investment in the water sector.
The government should develop a scientific database of water studies and document some of these challenges, ranging from quantification and availability and pollution.
The operations of the oil & gas companies in the Niger Delta should be well regulated to reduce water and food pollution. Especially the scientific researches conducted should be doubled checked and recommendation implemented.
Artificial dams and water supplies should be developed in the Northern part of the country, to reduce the disease incidence and in some case cases death due to the consumption of contaminated waters.
There is need for effect forest area conservation, especially in the Northern part of Nigeria, to minimize the effect of climate change which has further deepened the problem.
Areas of Investment and engagement in Nigeria
Strengthen civil society capacity in environmental management, monitoring and development, as it relates to water resource.
The public water sector needs to be revitalized and huge investment support. And/or established a public-private partnership in water resource management.
Development of regional water management strategies, adapted from local to issues and/or peculiarity.
There is need to fund research studies in this area, to document and debate water related issues.
The currently little or no water infrastructure and is one area of investment.
Considering the peculiarity of issues discussed and challenged faced by the people;
The North and East need urgent alternative water supply.
The south need proper water monitoring and facilities check
Summarily, there is need to develop the Nigerian public water system, and reliable alternatives development for areas facing scarcity.
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