World Water Day: Sustainable Water-Energy solutions take centre stage

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The importance of water and energy will dominate discussions across the globe today, as the world celebrates yet another World Water Day as it has done since 1993 following a declaration by the United Nations the year before.

The theme for this year’s celebration is Water and Energy and expectedly, the various discourses will attempt to explore the interconnectedness between water and energy, and trace how the linkages can impact both the economic and social lives of people across the world, as well as impact a sustainable environment in general.

According to the objectives set out for the celebration by the United Nations (UN), identifying policy formulation, approaches and solutions to water-energy issues can achieve greater economic and social impacts. One of the objectives is to identify relevant stakeholders in the water-energy nexus and actively engage them with a view to further developing the water-energy linkages.

One of the waters in Lagos

One of the waters in Lagos

Focusing this much energy and attention on water and energy is understandable. It is known that water is very essential to human survival.  Energy is also inevitable if clean, healthy water must be delivered to households far and near. Against this backdrop, it is then worrisome that even with the pre-eminence of water, many of the people of the world still lack access to clean drinkable water just as it is with renewable energy – whether for household or commercial uses.

“The World Economic Forum has identified the Water-Food-Energy Nexus as a risk where a rapidly rising and urbanizing global population is putting unsustainable pressures on resources. Demand for water, food and energy is expected to rise by 30-50% in the next two decades,” noted Dominic Waughray, Senior Director and Head of Environmental Initiatives, World Economic Forum.

The water problem in Nigeria, our correspondent found out, is no longer limited to the rural areas. Many urban settlements lack access to clean water while a great number of them depend on private boreholes or hawkers for water to cater for their daily chores and water needs. This has further exposed a greater number of people to water borne diseases.

Rather than lamenting the seemingly gloomy picture, the way to go certainly is to borrow a leaf from the Canadian example. In a demonstration of rare foresight, the Canadian government initiated The Canadian Water Summit in 2010 to unite leaders, experts and stakeholders with a view to surmounting water-related challenges by creating partnerships between business, government and the public.

The 2013 edition of the summit held in Calgary, Alberta focused primarily on the Water-Food-Energy Nexus that connects us all and according to the Luncheon Keynote speaker “recognises that water is the only medium through which major crises can be addressed. Decisions affecting water are made without realizing the importance and role of water. Trade offs are generally political decisions. The elements of the nexus are important. It is not just a part of the nexus, it is the nexus.”

That the summit held in Calgary, Alberta is instructive. The province is rich in oil and gas. Alberta is also known for its crop and livestock production. As for water, Southern Alberta is one of the driest in the country. A major energy and food exporter, Alberta is primed for this sort of gathering to explore the risks and opportunities that come with growth and limited water which is a challenge faced by countless cities across the globe.

To solve Nigeria’s water problem, taking learning from the Canadian experience, may just lie in the partnership between business, government and the public. But then, in a country where businesses are allegedly groaning under the yoke of multiple taxations, it is expedient to be cautious in calling on private businesses to spearhead the partnership between governments, business and the public in the charge to solve the country’s water challenge.

Yet, this may not be totally out of order. A few businesses are openly doing so. Guinness Nigeria Plc is one. The company is in fact  making commendable statement with its long standing commitment to helping communities solve their water problem by providing them with mini water works through its Water of Lifeplatform. Beneficiary communities are spread across the different geo-political zones of the country. They include, Ona Ara Local Government area of Oyo State; Lantoro, Abeokuta in Ogun State; Mararaba, Nassarawa State, Agoi Ibami, Yakurr Local Government Area of Cross River State; Ijora Badia and Mafoluku areas of Lagos State. Other States with beneficiary communities include Abia, Edo, Delta and Kaduna States.

The Corporate Relations Director, Guinness Nigeria, Sesan Sobowale underscored the company’s commitment towards provision of water through the Water of Life platform during the commissioning of the Agoi Ibami Mini Water Works Project. According to Sobowale, “Access to safe water is a global concern. There are about 1 billion people globally living without or with poor access to potable water. Of this figure, 400 million live in Africa, including Nigeria. For this reason, the provision of potable water to communities in Nigeria is an integral part of Guinness Nigeria corporate citizenship agenda. The construction of mini water works such as this, under our ‘Water of Life’ programme is part of Guinness Nigeria’s contribution to resolving this global problem in line with the UN Millennium Development Goals to ‘halve the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015’.  To date we have completed water projects in over 15 states of the federation serving over a million people in households across the nation.

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