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Published On: Sun, Feb 23rd, 2014

Addressing the challenges of water supply in Benue

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Addressing the challenges of water supply in BenueThe recent outbreak of cholera in Wadata quarters and some areas of Benue state have elicited the worry of concerned observers about the plight of people facing sustained water supply challenges.

Observers have been calling on the state government to make pragmatic efforts to provide potable water for the citizens of the state.

They say that it is somewhat ironic that Benue State, which is surrounded by water, cannot provide uninterrupted supply of drinkable water for the people.

They note that settlements like Agboghuul and Wadata in Makurdi, the state capital, as well as towns such as Gboko largely depend on rivers and streams for their daily water needs.

The observers note that those, who live in places faraway from river banks, resort to buying water from water vendors, adding that the sources of the water could not be verified.

A resident of Wadata, Mrs. Torkwase Tyowon, says that she has since resorted to drinking well water because of the dearth of pipe-borne water in the neighbourhood. Also speaking, Mr. John Terhide, another resident, says that most of the residents of Makurdi, the state capital, do not have access to potable water.

“Most of us do not even see water at all, even though the state government had spent billions of naira on the Katsina-Ala waterworks. I hope that the government will do something about the situation so that everybody will have access to potable water,’’ he adds.

However, Mr. David Audu, a resident of Otukpo, observes that even though the water treatment plant is working, the water distribution network conveying water to the residents’ houses is old and defective.

“We understand that the new plants in the state distribute water via pipes which are over 38 years’ old and these pipes cannot even cover a quarter of the areas they are supposed to cover. We are appealing to President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene so that the people of Benue can have safe water to drink.

“It is unfortunate that the Benue state government has been unable to provide potable and adequate water for us after spending so much on this water project,’’ he says.

Audu cites a report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which states that 4,100 children die every day from water-related diseases like diarrhea globally, adding that it is a reflection of the lack of safe water in several parts of the world.

From all indications, however, the Benue State Government is making concerted efforts to address the water supply challenges facing the people.

For instance, Gov. Gabriel Suswam recently inaugurated the construction of three water treatment plants at the cost of N11 billion, as a part government’s efforts to provide safe water for the citizens and eliminate water-borne diseases.

Besides, there are other water treatment projects such as the Greater Makurdi Water Works which has the capacity of supplying 50,000 cubic litres of water daily.

In spite of these efforts, Mrs. Janet Igba, a resident of Katsina-Ala, insists that the residents have yet to access to potable water supply in the area.

Reacting to such complaints, Mr. Michael Dzungu, the General Manager, Benue State Water Board, underscores the board’s readiness to provide potable water to the people regularly.

Dzungu concedes that due to paucity of funds, the board has been unable to carry out the necessary repairs of its facilities, saying that “our primary aim of giving the residents of Makurdi adequate water supply may not be feasible at the moment’’.

He, nonetheless, blames the acute water shortage facing Makurdi residents on illegal water supply connections by some water vendors and consumers.

Dzungu says that the state government recently began negotiations with a water engineering company, as part of efforts to resume water treatment and supply at the Katsina-Ala and Otubi waterworks.

Corroborating Dzungu’s claims, the Commissioner for Water Resources, Mr. Comrade Wergba, says that there are ongoing consultations between the state government and the company on the project.

Wergba appeals to the people in areas without water supply to exercise patience, saying that the government is doing everything possible to provide potable water for them.

All the same, the state’s Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Dr. Orduen Abunku, says: “We have so far recorded eight deaths from the cholera outbreak in some parts of the state. Two hundred and forty people have been diagnosed with cholera since its outbreak; the trend is gradually reducing and we are collaborating with all the necessary agencies to curb the spread of the disease.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO), the Federal Ministry of Health and other organisations had visited the affected areas to ascertain the exact state of the health crisis,’’ he says.

Abunku, however, urges the people to cultivate the habit of eating hot food and using clean water in everything they do.

All in all, analysts underscore the need for the government to give priority attention to water supply programmes, as part of pragmatic efforts to tackle the rising menace of water-borne diseases in Benue State. (NAN)

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