By Dons Eze, PhD
Years ago, as a small boy, I remember while coming into Enugu Coal City, and looking down from the Hilltop, before getting to the Milliken Hill, the entire city would be glittering, blazing, dazzling, particularly at night. It was a beautiful sight to behold, as electric lights would be shinning everywhere. We used to call it: “Obodo oku n’ewu n’enu” (a town where light shines on its top).
And when you came down from the Milliken Hill, and looked to your right, you would see water gushing out heavily, and non-stop from a very big panel, with an inscription “PWD 1926”. You would become perplexed, amazed. It was like an artisan well where water would be flowing day and night.
When you moved into Enugu City itself, you would see public taps at almost every corner of the street, with young boys and girls drawing water from there. In many private homes, you would see water running inside them. We used to enjoy taking our baths under water showers, water drizzling on us like rainfall.
Now, all these have become history. When you look down on Enugu City from the Hilltop at night, you will see darkness, no electricity. At the base of the Milliken Hill, at the panel built by the PWD in 1926, water no longer gushes out. The place has become completely dry. Inside Enugu City, there are no more public taps, and water no longer runs in private homes.
For years, residents of Enugu City have been living without portable water. This has necessitated many of them resorting to water vendors for their water needs, both for drinking and for their other domestic chores, the sources of such water, one does not know.
Some landlords have also dug wells inside their compounds to improvise this necessity of life. It is only a miracle and the mercy of God that epidemics of magnificent proportions have not burst out to claim many lives, due to lack of portable water in Enugu. The attraction we used to have in those days for going to the Township, electricity and pipe borne water, in particular, have all vanished.
Several administrations have come and gone in Enugu State without tackling this perennial water problem. We have heard about the “Greater Ajali Water Scheme”, we have heard about the “Iva Valley Water Scheme”, we have heard about the “Oji River Water Scheme”, we have heard about the “World Bank Water Project”, we have even seen water pipes laid in some parts of Enugu Metropolis. But we have not seen water running anywhere in the Coal City.
We begin to ask why? What is the Ministry of Water Resources doing? What is the Water Corporation doing? What has happened to the loan obtained from the World Bank to give water to Enugu? Sometime in the future we may be asked to repay this loan, and we may not be able to say what we did with the loan, how we spent the money.
Happily, there is now a flicker of hope. It looks like this perennial water problem in Enugu ís about to be solved. A contract for a comprehensive rehabilitation of the Ninth Mile Crash Water Programme, which would supply portable water to Enugu Metropolis from Oji River, Ajali, and Iva Valley Water Schemes have just been awarded by the present administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Water Resources, Hon. Anthony Dubem Onyia, revealed that the contract was awarded to FordMarx Nigeria Limited, at the cost of N600 million. Onyia said the contract which had a six-month duration would boost the volume of water being reticulated from the Ninth Mile Crash Programme Water Supply Scheme to Enugu Metropolis and environs.
According to him, the Ninth Mile Crash Programme Water Supply Scheme would be solar powered to address the peculiar challenges of power supply. He pọinted out that the project has a two-year warranty and maintenance period by the company, the FordMarx Nigeria Limited.
The new water project is a network of twelve boreholes connected to a massive pumping station and a mini treatment plant that would reticulate water to Enugu Metropolis through transmission pipelines, according to the Governor’s aide.
Reiterating Governor Ugwuanyi administration’s commitment towards adequate potable water supply in the state, the Special Adviser revealed that the state government had commenced the bid opening and evaluation meeting for a new Okwojo Ngwo boreholes augmentation to Enugu Metropolis.
The Okwojo Ngwo boreholes augmentation to Enugu Metropolis, which is a network of ten solar powered boreholes, he explained, was a newly conceived design which would help boost water production and distribution to Enugu Metropolis and environs, adding that this would equally augment the existing water schemes in order to effectively manage and meet the demands of the growing population of Enugu metropolis. He reassured residents of Enugu City that they would soon enjoy adequate water supply.
This is a very good news of the New Year, which should be highly commended. The interesting aspect of the whole thing is that the project would be solar-powered, and would no longer depend on epileptic electricity supply. We pray that this new vision, this new initiative of making water to run in Enugu by the administration of Governor Ugwuanyi will be actualized in no distant time.
We have been wondering why the Colonial Government, as far back as 1926, was interested in sourcing water for the Enugu residents, while our own governments have been looking the other way, or paying mere lip service. Perhaps, we may be tempted to interpret it to mean that those foreigners loved us, or were more interested in our welfare than those who claim to be our brothers and sisters. I always feel envious whenever I visit Abuja or some other big towns in the country and turn on the water taps and water will be running.
Water is life. The first thing you give a visitor to your house is water. This will make him feel at home. That was what Abraham did for the three strangers that were about passing by his house. And they blessed him with a baby boy. In our own case, you do not give somebody what you do not have. Water is a rare commodity in this part of the world.
Thales, a philosopher of antiquity, said that water was the source of all things, probably because he believed that everything in the world had moisture. But currently in our own place, everything is dry, no moisture. We pray that the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi will actualize his dream of solving this age long water problem in Enugu Coal City.