For borehole owners and water vendors in Cross River State, particularly in Calabar, the state capital, these are definitely not the best of times. Unlike what obtained in the past when they used to smile to the banks, business is dwindling by the day. But, as they say, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. While the borehole owners are lamenting their misfortune as it were, the residents are celebrating their fortune. This is because water is now available in all nooks and crannies of the state. So, the saying: “Water, water everywhere in Cross River State but none to drink,” no longer rings true.
Lamenting that her sale of water business is going down, 85-year-old Bassey Ekpo-Okon from Itam Ikang in Bakassi Local Government Area said: “Buyers are not plenty again; sometimes they won’t even be up to 10 customers in a day because water is being supplied by the Water Board. My son sunk the borehole for me so that I can be feeding from the proceeds, but government Water Board has spoilt business for me.” She said before the intervention of government, she used to make between N500 and N700 on daily basis but now she hardly gets N200.
Another of her kind, Umoh Edet of Mayne Avenue in Calabar South, said: “Before now, we sold water from borehole for N10 per bucket but now we have connected to water board, we charge N5 per bucket. Some even pay less.”
On the other hand, residents are singing a different tune. While Mrs. Grace Kufre Bassey is commending government for the initiative, Joshua Friday who runs a car wash business on Palm Street in Calabar South, offered profound perspectives: “We are currently using water board for our car wash business, which started in 1998. We were using borehole and it was quite expensive to maintain because we bought two generators and pumping machines to guarantee the efficiency of the business. We transferred all the costs to the customers, and because they trust our work, they stayed with us.”
Explaining further, Joshua opined that everybody is now a winner. “However, when we linked with the water board in 2009, the cost of running the business was reduced and we also reduced the cost of washing a car from N600 to N400 depending on the type. We are enjoying water board water because it is cheap, it is clean and environmental pollution is a thing of the past because we hardly use the generator. Our only challenge is that water board cuts supply once in a while without informing us.”
Philips Umoh Effiom added: “Water board is here and since we connected to government water we have been enjoying it because it is clean. I learnt they use chemical to treat it, so we are very happy. But for about one month, we have been cut off because the pipes were damaged somewhere and we have resorted to borehole which is expensive. Please help us beg government to repair the damaged things. For example, I now spend an average of N60 daily on water unlike the government water that is far cheaper.”
It was learnt that pipelines were damaged at Atimbo where a landside occurred recently hence, residents of Akpabuyo cannot access water from the water board.
Indeed, following the creation of the Ministryof WaterResources by Governor Liyel Imoke on March 29,2012, water supply in the state has witnessed remarkable improvement. The ministry headed by Elemi Etowa was given the mandate toraise the building blocks and templates to fast track the activities of the State Water Board and Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWATSSA) to ensure adequate water supply to meet the needs of the people of the state.
The creation of the ministry was borne out of the administration’s desire and determination to meet the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, objectives through better and proper co-ordination of activities in the water sector, which in turn would guarantee improved service delivery and affordable water supply in line with the Safe water, save life initiative of the government.
It was gathered that in April 2012, the state government invested several billions of naira forthe rehabilitation of old water projects, establishment of modern facilities as well as extension of pipelines in Itigidi, Ogoja, Obudu, Ikom and elsewhere to enhance the production and distribution of water in the major towns. Some of these schemes have been completed while others are at various states of completion. The Obudu Ranch Resort, Utanga Safari and Bebi Airstrip are not left out of theses projects even as the Cross River State government is partnering with European Union, EU and UNICEF in the quest to make water available for all in the state.
At the phase one in Itigidi, the installed capacity is 2,400 cubic metres per day with125house connections and a distribution networkof 12 kilometres and a total of 14,365 inhabitants.In Ikom, the installed capacity is 5,750 cubic metres per day and a distributionnetwork and transmission spans 33.7 kilometers with 400 houses connected to provide water to 75,000 inhabitants.
The Ikom Phase Two Water Project has a capacity of 5,750 cubic metres, a pipeline transmission of70kilometres, a house connection target of10,000 and servicing total population of 220,000 inhabitants. The project extends to Ikom 4-corners,Ikom Town, Okuni Town, Akam, Akparabong, Little Agbokim, Nde, Efraya and Adiginkpor. It has the capacity of being extended upto Bendeghe Ekim in Etung LGA.
The Itigidi Phase Two has a capacity of 3,965 cubic metres per day and a pipeline distribution network covering 74 kilometres in communities covering a population of 80,000 inhabitants. The benefiting communities include Itigidi town, Adadama, Egboronyi, Emin, Ekpon, Anong, Likpoma, Akaraefor, Eseghe, Akarafor, Ekurreku, Agbara, Ngharabe, Akpowa, Itgeve and Ison Inyang.
The Ogoja scheme has a capacity of 8,144 cubic metres per day and a transmissionand distribution of 96 kilometres regional radius spanning Bekwara, Ogoja andYala LGAs. The population covered here is 206,144 spanning Igoli, Abakpa, Ishibori, Ogboja, Akpakpanga, Federal Housing, Federal School, Okuku, Army Barracks,Ugaga, Ijibor, Ugboro, Abuochiche, Ukpa and Afrike. And it could be extended to Njua and Odejiecommunities in the near future.
The Obubra scheme, which has the a capacity of 8,187 cubic metres per day and stretching over 87km of transmission and distribution lines, will provide potable water to over 157,000 inhabitants of the following communities: Owankande Two, Obubra Station, Obubra Town, Mile One, Ogada One, Ogada two, Ofukpa, Ofumbungha, Apiapum, Ofatura, Ovonum, Ofodua, Ofatura, Owakande One, Iyamoyong, Ohana, Ofat, Ababene, Onyaedama, AdunnandOchon.
The Okpoma Water Scheme has capacity for the supply of 3,933 cubic metres per daystretching 87 kilometres and connecting 75,000 inhabitants. The benefiting communities include Okpoma, Abachor, Okpinya, Idibor, Olachor, Adiero, Woleche, Utukpo, Iboko, Udenyima, Itega, Okpudu, Ogojah, Utokpo, Ipuole and Igboekurikor.
The second phase launched by SenatorImokeon July 9, is expected to benefit communities including Botum, Njua, Okubushuya, OvimEkpang, Okundi, Wula, Katchuan, Agoi, Ibami,Agoi Ekpo, Ekum Agoi, Okem and Asiga.
According to Etowa, “the beauty of this scheme is that the benefiting communities are self-selected after due completion of templates andrigorous assessment by the ministry.”
In addition, Tulsi Chanrai Foundation, TCF, an international NGO, is carrying out the rehabilitation of 540 hand pump boreholes. The project is expected to last for four years. This year alone, 60 hand pump boreholes have been completely rehabilited by TCF in addition to carrying out training of local mechanics and artisans on the maintenance and repair of hand pump boreholes across the state. On completion of training, maintenance tools will be given to them to enable the mechanics effectively carry out repairs.
It was gathered that so far, 28 water supply facilities have been completed. These water facilities are providing potable water to 70,000 rural dwellers.
Also, safe excreta disposal through the construction of two units of Pour-Flush-Latrines have been constructed in 21 schools, serving population of 16,800 pupils. According to Etowa, “this is an area of great importance in the programme, which is supported by the European Union.”