How To Ensure Sustainable Water Supply, By DATA Foundation Boss
POOR maintenance culture is one problem that affects Nigerians. The problem of water, for example, which cannot be provided by the government alone, has seen individuals and non-governmental institutions step in to alleviate problems in many communities, but most times, lack of maintenance renders their efforts useless.
The Demola and Titi Aladekomo (DATA), Foundation, a non-governmental, non-partisan and non-political Christian and community development foundation committed to improving the lives of Nigerian everywhere, with a strong emphasis on improving education and living standards, have developed a model that has worked for the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), water plant established by the foundation.
Speaking on behalf of the foundation and why they saw a need for a water plant at the OAU, Demola Aladekomo, said, “The DATA foundation is committed to improving the lives of Nigerian everywhere with emphasis on education, but you also know that the global water challenge is very serious.
So serious that the United States of America-based think-tank, National Academy of Sciences, recently asserted that lack of clean water is responsible for more deaths in the world than warfare. The academy also provided statistics, which indicate that one out of every six people living today, do not have access to potable water, and more people lack basic sanitation, for which, water is needed, so OAU only happened to be one of those communities in need of this dear necessity. ”
Asked what could be the cause of lack of water even when we all know it’s a necessity, Aladekomo attributed political and economic barriers as preventing sustainable access to potable water even in areas where it is available. “On the other hand, water supplies are contaminated not only by the people discharging toxic contaminants, but also by arsenic and other naturally occurring poisonous pollutants found in groundwater aquifers.”
Aladekomo, referred to a recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report warning: “Overcoming the crisis in water and sanitation is one of the greatest human development challenges of the early 21st century.”
As such, he said, the theme of this year’s World Water Day – Water and Sustainable Development – is indeed apt as it speaks to the need to ameliorate Nigeria’s potable water shortfall, which is said to affect about 70 million citizens, according to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
He, however, expressed sadness over the inability of governments to ensure sustainable provision of water. “Consequently, well-meaning corporations, private institutions and non-governmental organisations in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, had taken up the challenge of complementing government’s efforts to provide fresh, drinkable water to the most deprived citizens in urban and rural communities through Corporate Social Investments (CSI).”
He continued: “In spite of the huge investment in mini-water works, bore holes, water treatment plants and storage tanks as well as power by private sector donors, beneficiaries of CSI projects rarely enjoy sustainable access to potable water. This is because very few donors execute potable water projects with a sustainability strategy in place. So, the question does become, should donors be saddled with operating water projects donated to host communities and beneficiaries in the hinterland to ensure sustainability,” he asked.
Taking a cue from the Oxidised Water Plant donated to the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) by the Foundation, in 2010, Aladekomo said, “Corporations can invest in water projects of scale in a sustainable manner. The OAU Oxidised Water Plant comprise a modern water treatment and bottling plant with the capacity to filter, sterilise and package over 2.1 million gallons of water yearly and is equipped to create its own PET bottles and other packaging products.”
To ensure sustainability of the project, Aladekomo-led Foundation did not only invest in building and equipping the plant with all the necessary equipment, it managed the project for three months before handing it over to trained university staff.
According to him, “remarkably, the project has a strong commercial content. Managed by the OAU Investment Company, it generates revenue through bottled water production and has bloomed into a thriving enterprise, which generates revenue for the university.”
He added: “This same model is adopted in peri-urban areas of Accra in Ghana at locations of Water of Life projects donated by Diageo Plc to local communities. These projects are sustainable and continuously delivering potable water to a large number of Ghanaians… Though, wholly built and equipped by Diageo, community members pay a token for the water on use basis, thereby, mitigating wastage of a scarce resource given Ghana’s peculiar water challenge.”
He advised that, “To ensure sustainability of water projects donated to communities, there is need for donors to empower and allow the communities/beneficiaries to take ownership of the projects after they become operational. By doing so, the beneficiary communities monitor and operate them in the best way possible. This ensures that the projects are not vandalised and serve the various communities for a long time. In no small measure, this will ameliorate the potable water challenge facing millions of Nigerians, while sustainable projects will also inspire other well-meaning corporations and ind