By Dennis Agbo
Abakaliki – Isi-Uzo is an agrarian local government area situated in the undulating lowlands of north-east flank of Enugu State. The major sources of water in the five major communities of Mbu, Neke, Umualor, Ikem and Eha-Amufu that make up the local government are Amanyi and Ebenyi streams.
There has never been any bore hole in the entire five communities that anyone can remember. The only sourceÂ of drinking or other domestic water is through the flowing streams and the water is usually highly turbid during the rainy seasons. Even the sachet water which is popular in many places is a luxury here since bad roads make it difficult forÂ water tankers and other supply vehicles to come.
Geologists and water experts say that the entire terrain of the local government is such that water cannot be sourced through boreholes. And indeedÂ several core drilling attempts made to source water has yielded no result due to lack of underground water.
The option left was the setting up of a treatment plant. But it has been found that such water reticulations are usually costly and difficult to maintain. Admittedly, the Federal Government through the Anambra-Imo River Basin Authority recently completed a surface water scheme at Ikem the headquarters of Isi-Uzo Local Government Area which included extraction of raw water from the Ebenyi stream and treatment plant installation.
The third phase of the contract which would have distributed the water and made it available to the people was abandoned after tendering by the Anambra-Imo River Basin Development Authority with the simple reason that the mandate of the Authority does not include water supply anymore. This has left the completed Ikem Water Supply Scheme moribund.
Just recently, the Community Development Association of Ikem during the official handover of the completed phases of the Ikem Water Scheme to the community and the Enugu State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA) requested the state agency to undertake the completion of the scheme which now included reticulation of the treated water to the communities.
The Managing Director of RUWASSA Mr. Mike Oguamah promised to convey the request to the government of Enugu State under the leadership of Governor Sullivan Chime who has water supply in hisÂ Four Point Agenda. Also, the Anambra-Imo River Basin Development Authority promised to do something as soon as their mandate on water supply is lifted.
Information has it that the Federal Government plans to include the expansion and over head tanks on its yearly budgets but till date the partly executed project has not rendered the desired service. Even if the expansion is done, the plant can only service parts of Ikem community, leaving out four communities in the local government.
The African Society for Toxicological Sciences, ASTS, a none-profit organisation, while on a visit in the area on issues of sanitation and safe health, has also noted the desperate need for water in the area.
In dry seasons, the people trek long distances of about 15 kilometres to the Ebenyi River to fetch water. Wheel barrows and bicycles are used by those who can afford them while the very indigent ones carry their water pots and calabashes on their heads. There is no doubt that the people need government intervention very urgently to alleviate their water problem.
Sourcing water from the popular shallow wells is equally difficult because of the same terrain problem. Those who dig very deep to find well water see them dry up shortly after the rainy season while some dig deep but find no water. It is not yet clear the arrangement the Enugu State government has for provision of safe water in Isi-uzo but the people expect government should at least have a master plan for rural water supply, especially for their area with such low water density.
The Chairman of the Isi-Uzo traditional rulers council, Igwe Francis O.O.Okwor,Â said that his community has set up a committee that would manage the Ikem water treatment plant. But he pleaded that the Federal Government should complete the project by awarding the expansion contract. Igwe Okwor also pleaded that the Federal and state governments should replicate the treatment plant in other communities of Isi-Uzo so that pressure would not be much on the Ikem plant any time it comes on stream.
The Isi-Uzo local government chairman, Dr. Sam Chijioke Ugwu affirm that his people have serious water problem just like other problems of roads, health, education among other facilities lacking in the area.
For now the people continue to scoop water from the streams and ponds while awaiting intervention by government or donor agencies to alleviate their sufferings.