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Surrounded by water, Bayelsa residents lack any to drink

Just like the popular lines from Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” Bayelsa…

Just like the popular lines from Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” Bayelsa State surrounded by water and recently flooded, is lacking potable water in all the eight local government areas of the state.

The state water corporation is not functioning and residents of the state capital, Yenagoa, have no access to the water supply.

Promises by the state government through the Ministry of Water Resources has constantly promised to restore public water supply, but the promise is still in the pipeline.

This has left residents to source for water from streams and boreholes where these exist.

However, the major challenges facing the boreholes and streams water in the state is that the water from those sources is not treated for consumption.

There is a high level of rust and iron deposit in the land, thereby making the boreholes water not too good for consumption.

Studies revealed that water-borne diseases such as typhoid, dysentery, cholera and diarrhoea are on the rise in Bayelsa State and the Niger Delta region due to the challenges of accessing potable water and the pollution of sources of drinking water in the streams due to oil extraction.

Daily Trust reporters who visited some coastal communities in the state learnt that in the past, the rural dwellers were drinking from their streams, but upon the advent of oil and gas exploration, those sources were contaminated due to incessant oil spills and gas flaring.

Rent for houses with boreholes is higher than those without and those in such house have to resort to water vendors at exorbitant cost.

Checks around Yenagoa indicate that 20 litres of water is sold by vendors at the cost of N40 to N50, while the borehole operators sell 20 litres of water at N20 directly to the resident when there is no power supply.

When there is, some residents could buy it at N10.

A resident of Yenagoa, Preye Iniefe, told Daily Trust that there was public water supply in the state since 1999 during the administration of the first civilian governor, late Chief Diepreye Alamieyesigha and after.

However, by 2012, the immediate past governor, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson carried out some road constructions that destroyed the water pipes.

“There is nothing we can do. We are in Nigeria, a country where citizens are expected to provide basic amenities for themselves. In Bayelsa State, we provide power, water, and even roads etc. for ourselves.

“All government is doing is to collect taxes.

“Recently the state House of Assembly even came out with the bill that all those that have boreholes in their houses will be taxed. Imagine such a funny thing!

“So if the government cannot provide water for its citizens, is it wrong for citizens to look for an alternative?

“As I am talking to you, Bayelsa State Water Company is not working, the local streams that people used to get drinking water for themselves are being polluted due to oil exploration, so we are left to fend for ourselves,” he said.

He said this has resulted in various ailments and water-related diseases

Projects like these, when completed and functional might alleviate suffering of residents
Projects like these, when completed and functional might alleviate suffering of residents

“If you move around, just observed the tanks we are taking water from, you will see they are all rusty.

“How can you get good water from there?” he said.

Last November, the majority of the members in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly had opposed and called for the dismissal of a bill seeking to regulate and impose taxes, levies on the usage of water amongst Bayelsa residents.

The bill sponsored by Hon. Ebiowou Koku-Obiyai (PDP Yenagoa ll) was intended to force taxes, levies on people before they could drink water from their rivers, drill boreholes, and even swim in these rivers.

According to the members, the said bill was anti-people and anti-Bayelsa even when the state government has not been able to provide drinkable water to the masses.

Chief MacDonald Igbadiwei, representing Southern-Ijaw Constituency IV, during deliberations, said that the bill would deprive the people of Southern-Ijaw of accessing their God-given waters at will, saying the state government has not provided good water for the people, as such has no right to regulate or impose levies on Bayelsans before they could access natural waters.

Another member, Hon. Oboku Oforji, appealed to members to as a matter of urgency dismiss the bill, because l it would be inhuman

Hon. Timi Omubo Agala, also described the bill as obnoxious, provoking and vexatious, stating that the bill seeks to create a board to regulate the usage of water is duplicating the job of the Ministry of Water Resources, which will increase the state wage bill and running cost of governance when attention should be directed to a reduction in cost, considering the recession.

Also speaking, a civil servant at the state secretariat, who declined to be named, said even in the state government secretariat where civil servant works, there is no public water supply and they are all depending on the borehole.

He said if there is a shortage, the various ministries and departments engage the services of water vendors to get water for use.

Recently, the people of Kolokuma/Opokuma ward  II were in a happy mood as the councillor representing the ward, Hon. Keme Abeki, executed a borehole project.

Last year, the people of Otuoke community, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s area, accused the Bayelsa State government of wasting N5.9 billion water intervention project initiated by the Federal Government over its inability to maintain the project and provide potable water.

According to them, while people in the rural areas depend heavily on polluted rivers, rivulets and streams for water, those living in Yenagoa, the state capital, buy water from vendors.

On September 9, 2016, the Federal Government inaugurated a massive water intervention scheme, the Central Ogbia Regional Water Supply Project in Bayelsa State.

The project, which gulped N5.9 billion, was sited at Otuoke, in Ogbia Local Government Area of the state.

While inaugurating the project, then Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, said the project was not designed to serve Otuoke alone,  as it was established to provide potable water to 13 Ogbia communities to be extended to Yenagoa.

However, all those hopes and promises have become a mirage.

The project, which had the Fibow Petroleum Engineering Consult Nigeria Limited and the NARDA Limited, as contractors, died shortly after it was inaugurated and was handed over to the state government.

In what seemed like an effort to bring back public water supply in the state and reactivate the State Water Corporation, the government under Governor Douye Diri has reiterated its resolve to the provision of adequate water supply to residents of the state.

Hon. Keme Wariebi, the commissioner for water resources, said this during a water test run tour to Okaka community last week.

Wariebi said the intervention of the administration in the rehabilitation of the water work in the state will also prevent waterborne diseases.

He said with the rehabilitation work going on at the water board at Okaka and Ovom, it will increase its daily output by about 70 per cent.

“We now have new equipment such as pumping machines, filters, filters control, transformers, low and high lift pump among others.

“I urge the residents to protect government utilities from vandals so as to complement the state government’s effort in providing portable drinking water,” he said.

Until these repairs are done, residents of Bayelsa like the sailors in Coleridge’s poem will continue to be thirsty while being surrounded by water.

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