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Heat wave in Gombe as water scarcity bites harder

A persistent water scarcity triggered by the inability of the Gombe State Water Board to provide potable water to residents of Gombe metropolis has thrown…

A persistent water scarcity triggered by the inability of the Gombe State Water Board to provide potable water to residents of Gombe metropolis has thrown most households into untold hardship, Daily Trust Saturday reports.

Our correspondent who went round Gombe metropolis reports that for months, the pipelines supplying water to few areas connected to the main water treatment plant in Dadin-Kowa are not running, a development that forced most residents to rely on private boreholes as an alternative, although at exorbitant prices.

The water scarcity intensified in the past 9 days when the 330KV Jos-Gombe transmission line supplying electricity to the state collapsed, throwing residents of the state into total blackout.

The situation further affected the water supply system in the state, especially on private boreholes, where most residents get water for domestic usage, amidst the unprecedented excessive heat being experienced in the state.

Due to lack of electricity and high cost of fuel, the boreholes can’t operate optimally.

Daily Trust Saturday reports that it is a common sight in Gombe to see people, irrespective of social status, moving with jerry-cans in their cars or carts, searching for water.

Even the rich who have boreholes in their houses are finding it difficult to get fuel to power them.

Residential areas mostly affected by the situation are Tudun Wada, Bolari, Pantami, Herwagana, Kumbiya-Kumbiya, Unguwa Uku, Nasarawo and Jekadafari.

At Tudun Wada, for instance, for about two months, there has not been supply from the state water corporation. A check by our correspondent shows that even at Jekadafari, where taps used to run, supply has stopped for almost a month now.

Even highbrow areas like GRA, New GRA, Federal Low Cost, Buba Shongo, Shongo Housing Estate and Orji Estate, are also experiencing the scarcity. Residents of the areas, who are mostly wealthy and middle-income earners, as well as politicians, now rely on commercial water tankers.

The scarcity is experienced most at newly established residential areas like Arawa, Kagarawal, Riyal quarters, Bomala, Nayi Nawa and Tunfure Quarters because they are not yet connected to the Gombe regional water.

However, the Gombe State Government, in collaboration with the federal government, had in January 2023 inaugurated a N11.49 billion contract for the rehabilitation, upgrade and expansion of the regional water supply scheme to connect communities that were hitherto not connected.

Daily Trust Saturday learnt that although over 158 kilometres of pipelines were laid by the contractor handling the project for the reticulation exercise, with 2023 as target for completion, people are yet to see the water.

The development has subjected residents to acute water scarcity and untold hardship as they are forced to depend of vendors, who sell a cart containing 10 jerry-cans as much as N1,500 or more, depending on the location and number of commercial boreholes available in the area.

Abubakar Musa, a teacher in one of the secondary schools in the state, who resides at Bolari Quarters, said he spent over N1,000 daily on water in his house.

“In our area, 10 jerry-cans of water cost N800 if there is light, but when they use generators, the price is between N1,200 and N1,500. So, I spent over N30,000 monthly on water alone. And as a teacher, my monthly salary is not up to N60,000; and I have three mouths to feed daily. You can imagine the difficulty I am going through,” Musa lamented.

Sharing the same view, Ibrahim Haruna, a civil servant in the state civil service said it was always difficult for him to provide water for domestic use.

“I am a junior staff and my take home pay is not taking me anywhere. My salary is spent before the middle of the month. This is my eight years in Arawa Quarters but the taps have never run, even for a day. We rely 100 per cent on private boreholes who charge from N1,000 and above per cart.

“I have a wife and seven children. Since I cannot afford to buy from the water vendors, my children spend more time queuing at boreholes, which is cheaper. But it is affecting their studies because they always report to school late,” Haruna said.

At Federal Low Cost, GRA and Tunfure Quarters, which are highbrow areas, residents mostly patronise private water tankers who fill their overhead tanks at the cost of N5,000 and above.

Mr Michael John, a resident of Tunfure Quarters, said he spent about N25,000 monthly on water alone because the area is not even connected with water pipelines.

“As a result of the scarcity, I buy a water tank between N20,000 and N25,000; and it usually lasts less than three weeks; therefore, I have to buy at least two tanks every month, which roughly cost N50,000 monthly,” he said.

A resident of Herwagana Quarters, Mustapha Gambo, said water had become like gold in their area, and as a result, people wake up at 2am in search of water.

He said, “We are in dire need of water, but it has become like gold here. You must buy one jerry-can at the rate of N100; that is if you are lucky enough to get one. This development is threatening our means of livelihood. I urge the government to intervene because the situation is becoming unbearable.”

Another resident of Jekadafari Quarters, Salisu Babayo, said it was becoming difficult for their wives to cook because of the difficulty to get water. He also urged the government to intervene.

“We have spent almost two weeks without water supply here at Herwagana. At times our wives are not able to cook due to lack of water. I have spent three days on queue without getting enough water for my house. The government has to look into this as soon as possible.

“With this development, people are reducing the number of times they shower and even cook in order to save the limited water they have,” Babayo lamented.

Abdul Nasir, a resident of Tudun Wada also said, “There is neither water nor electricity to power the boreholes we have here. To save the situation, I developed a timetable of how we bathe or wash our clothes in my house despite this extremely hot weather, just to save the little water we have. Things have never been this difficult.

On his part, a resident of Arawa, Abdulaziz Bello, called on the government to suspend all its projects and focus on how to address the water scarcity and blackout.

He said, “With the current water scarcity, I think this is high time for the government and public-spirited individuals to intervene. In fact, the government should stop all ongoing projects and address this issue because it is our major concern now.”

Meanwhile, private borehole owners and water vendors attributed the hike in price to the cost of buying fuel.

A borehole operator, Abdullahi Babangida, told our correspondent that they purchased fuel above N800 per litre at filling stations and N1,500 at the black market.

“A pushcart with 10 jerry-cans costs between N800 and N1,000, especially now that we are using generators to power the boreholes. For over 10 days there has not been electricity.

“We were left with no option than to increase the price, if not, we would be out of business,” he explained.

However, in efforts to ameliorate the situation, Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya has issued an order directing the Ministry of Water, Environment and Forest Resources to speed up action and restore normalcy for water distribution in Gombe metropolis and environs.

The governor through his spokesman, Ismaila Uba Misilli, attributed the hardship caused by the water scarcity to the power supply interruption caused by vandalism of some poles on the 330KV Jos-Gombe transmission line.

He said the Dadin-Kowa water supply scheme produces approximately 35 million litres of water per day, costing the state ggovernment N154 million monthly.

“The treatment plant relies solely on a dedicated power line by the Jos Electricity Distribution Company (JED) Plc for uninterrupted operation.

“Following combined efforts of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), JED and regional teams from Gombe and Bauchi, the power line was partially restored sub-optimally, with Gombe receiving only 5MW, out of which the Tabra pump station receives 0.5MW for pumping water to upper and lower zones for subsequent distribution to communities and households within Gombe metropolis.

“However, following a strong windstorm on April 25, 2024, up to 31 electric poles along the Dadin-Kowa dedicated power line were damaged, which consequentially halted the production, pumping and distribution of water from the treatment plant,” Misilli explained.

According to him, technical teams are expected to complete the restoration work last Tuesday, after which production, pumping and distribution is expected to resume immediately by Wednesday.

However, at the time of filing this report, water supply was yet to be restored, with residents still spending hours on queue searching for water.

 

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