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LAGOS WATER SECTOR AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION


Ayo Afuwape

According to UNICEF report, more than a billion people do not have access to safe water and well over 2billion people live without adequate sanitation. At any given time, more than a half of the developing world’s population is suffering from one or more diseases associated with unsafe water and poor sanitation.  In Nigeria, available statistic shows that 66million Nigerians do not have access to potable water; premature death from water related diseases cost the country $2.5billion, while $191million was spent on health care for diarrhea alone.

Deaths emanating from poor water condition globally have been rated as the world’s highest killer in the past and even at present. According to World Health Organization, WHO, every year more than 3.4 million people die as a result of water related diseases, making it the leading cause of disease and death around the world. Most of the victims are children, the vast majority of whom die of illnesses caused by organisms that thrive in water sources contaminated by raw sewage. Additionally, WHO affirms that about 80 per cent of diseases globally have their roots in unhygienic water.

In same vein, Executive Secretary, Lagos State Water Regulatory Commission, Arc. Ahmed Abdulahi recently disclosed that over 50 per cent of patients thronging the various health centres in the State on daily basis are being treated for one water related ailment or the other. This disclosure further underscores the need for all stakeholders to work together to reverse this ugly trend as the figure could be higher in some other States across the country who do not have the same capacity for water provision, regulation and management like Lagos State.

As it is now, Lagos State, with established agencies in charge of water regulatory and waste water management has the capacity to a greater level to forestall or limit contaminated water sources except for some other deliberate human factors.

In some hinterlands where residents rely solely on water sources from streams, rivers and other unclean sources for cooking and drinking, the effect of the dirty water could be higher and rate of water related diseases more. Children die from dehydration, malnutrition and diarrhoea illnesses that could be prevented through clean water and good hygiene.

Cholera, typhoid fever and hepatitis A are caused by bacteria, and are among the most common diarrhoea diseases. Other illnesses, such as dysentery, are caused by parasites that live in water contaminated by the feaces of sick individuals. Lakes and streams which people use for drinking water, bathing and defecating are sources of disease, as well as water left by natural disasters.

It has been observed that government easily pays attention to infrastructure development in response to the yearnings of the populace, while little or no attention is paid to the adverse effect of water usage and waste water management. This is because the aftermath of the latter, though very devastating, are not easily pictured by the populace in same way as bad roads or a dilapidated school buildings.

It would be recalled that some months ago some parts of Lagos State suffered insufficient water supply, this to a largely extent was caused by illegal connection of water by the residents, construction works on some roads, wilful damages to water infrastructure among others.

Across the metropolis, illegal water connection across drainage channels, drains and silts is a common sight. While several warnings and appeals by Water Corporation and the state government, using all forms of communication means had continually fell on deaf ear, the associated risk is quite enormous. When water from a burst pipe gets contaminated, especially from canals and other such unhygienic contacts, it becomes quite unhygienic for drinking and could result into diverse health risks.

In the past, this illegal practice and carelessness had often been attributed to ineptitude on the side of government as it is often accused of supplying unclean water to residents, whereas the contaminated water actually originated partly from illegal connections.

This fragrant abuse of water, individual rights, wastages, environmental degradation are what the State Government is seeking to address with the establishment of the water sector court which has now given the State government a legal ground to apprehend and prosecute violators of the provisions of 2004 Lagos Water Sector Law by the State Water Sector Court.

One of the recent decisions made by the State Government to protect water usage and regulate haphazard bore hole drilling is the certification of borehole construction and regulating the practice. This is to properly regulate and standardize the operation of drillers in the sector. It is mainly aimed at ensuring that best practice is strictly followed for health factors.

The fact that the distance between the State clean water source and waste water is on daily basis getting bridged makes it more imperative to enforce the provisions of the 2004 Lagos Water Sector Court. It is a development that a sincere government who cares for posterity must not fold its arms and allow it deteriorate any further.

In an increasingly environmentally endangered world, individuals must consciously imbibe cautious attitude towards water and be properly educated about the adverse effect of polluted water.  More importantly, and as earlier affirmed, as government invests in road construction and rehabilitation, provision of power supply and other social amenities, cursory attention must also be paid to effective water provision, waste water management and regulation.

Now that the Lagos State water sector court has been established, compliance with the State Water Sector Law is highly anticipated as ignorance of the law will not be an excuse. In all, precaution is the key as water, being a very good friend, might eventually be a deadly fiend, if mismanaged.

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