WaterPost Comment Water Nigeria
Water is an essential aspect of man's life because of its universal utility for domestic, agricul tural and industrial purposes. Particularly at the domestic level, good drinkable water is important to individuals and the households in order to ensure healthy living, as well as freedom from attacks and untimely deaths from water- related diseases.
Accessibility to good drinkable water, therefore, is paramount.
In Nigeria, accessibility to improved water supply is very biased in favour of urban centres. This situation was inherited from the colonial administra lion which attempted to use improved water supply as a means of controlling the spread of certain dis eases in urban centres. Abeokuta was the first to be supplied with pipe-borne water in 1911, followed by Lagos (1914), Enugu (1925), Kaduna (1930), Akure (1931), Jos (1935), Okene (1936), and Port Harcourt (1937). By 1953, 29 towns had been sup plied with potable water and, by 1960, the number had risen to sixty-seven. It rose to 261 by 1977.
Many more towns have since benefited. The situation regarding rural water supply is, however, quite pathetic. Up until the early seven ties, less than 8 per cent of all rural households had access to pipe-borne water for domestic purposes. The programmes of the River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs) established in 1976 and the Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) established in 1986 improved on the situation. The latter's remarkable success at providing 5,054 communities in all States of the Federation with potable water mainly through boreholes, raised the proportion to about 13.63 per cent of rural households that had access to pipe-borne water by the end of 1999. For urban and semi-urban centres, the figures are 68.50 per cent and 42.45 per cent respectively.
Rural households that depend on streams are about 36 per cent, compared with only 3.63 per cent for urban centres and 19.53 per cent for semi-urban locations. Hand-dug wells provide water for 23.5 per cent of households in urban centres, 27.6 per cent in semi-urban and 41.9 per cent in rural loca tions. Some 1.68 per cent of urban households depend on boreholes. Comparable figures for semi-rural and rural areas are 3.13 per cent and 5.56 per cent respectively. In 1997 when all settle ments irrespective of sizes were taken together, only about 24.74 per cent of all households in Nigeria had access to pipe-borne water. By 1999 the households that depended on boreholes, wells and stream/ponds were, respectively, 15.41 per cent, 27.62 per cent, and 32.23 per cent. Thus, the provision of potable water still demands govern ment's prompt and sustained attention.
Water is also important in Nigeria for agricultur al and industrial purposes. Irrigation agriculture is important, particularly in the savannah areas of Northern Nigeria where 'fadama' fields are cultivat ed during the dry season, particularly for onions, tomatoes, carrots, rice, sugar cane. The RBDAs have been supportive in this regard, such as in opening up large tracts of land to irrigated farming. Most of the vegetables marketed and consumed in southern Nigeria during the dry season are from such irrigated 'fadama' fields in the north.
From the industrial point of view, water is impor tant for washing and cooling machinery. As else where, heavy industries such as the iron and steel, petro-chemicals and the automobile, are heavy water consumers. Expectedly, therefore, the Ajaokuta and Aladja steel works, the petroleum and gas industries in the Niger Delta, the cement plants in some States, the automobile assembly plants in Kaduna and other industries located in places like Lagos, lbadan, llorin, Kano, Kaduna, and Poit Harcourt, are major water consumers. The numer ous medium and small scale industries which dot the country's landscape also consume water in dif fering proportions.
Water is also a major means of transportation, particularly in the Niger Delta area where water is also of economic value for fishermen. This applies not only to communities in the Niger Delta but also to those along the Niger and Benue Rivers. Fishing on a smaller scale also goes on in the numerous smaller rivers in the country.
Finally, water is important as a source of ener gy, i.e. hydro-electric power. One of the earliest set tlements to enjoy energy derived from an hydro electric power system in Nigeria was Jos, as a result of the tin industry whose energy was derived from Kura Falls, even during the colonial days. Following the commissioning of the Niger Dam Power Station at Kainji in 1969, virtually all of Nigeria and part of the Niger Republic now enjoy power derived from the Kainji and Jebba dams on the Niger River and the Shiroro dam on the Kaduna River. Their installed capacities are 760 mw, 578.4 mw and 600 mw, respectively.
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