Special Report: Water scarcity bites hard in Zaria urban area as protracted water project nears completion


By Salim Yunusa

Huge but empty water reservoirs, newly renovated by the present government in collaboration with the Federal Government, Islamic Development Bank and Africa Development Bank, dot the skylines of Zaria as they’re hoisted in strategic locations.

There was visible excitement all over the town since the inauguration of Mal Nasiru Ahmed El-Rufai as the governor of Kaduna state, who, during his campaign, promised to “break the jinx” of the water shortages in Zaria.

For decades, water scarcity has been a bane in the growth and development of Zaria and its environs. Many communities across Zaria and Sabon Gari local governments are lacking tap water supply, despite the availability of large water bodies in the town. People rely on other sources of water, mainly boreholes and wells for their daily water consumption and usage.

The Zaria city water supply system was originally constructed in 1939, and was expanded in 1975. The water distribution system in Zaria is generally characterized by old, poorly maintained infrastructure, with low coverage and high unaccounted-for-water of over 60%.

Water projects down the pipeline

Successive governments have started and abandoned various water projects in the town. The most recent, being when the Kaduna state government awarded the contract for the Zaria regional water project (Phase I) at Kekeyi village in 2006, which involved the construction of a new 150 million liters per day water treatment plant. As of 2013, the then General Manager, Kaduna State Water Board, Engineer Kabiru Ahmed Rufai, said the total project was about 95 percent completed with all its major components in place. He claimed the project would be ready for use by 2014.

In 2008, former Governor, Architect Namadi Sambo initiated another water project in conjunction with the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), and the state signed an agreement for the construction of new transmission and gravity mains (over 73-kilometer pipeline), ten service reservoirs, two booster stations, consultancy service and project management. The sum of $81 million was obtained from the IsBD for the project. The state government in collaboration with the Africa Development Bank (ADB) would separately undertake another project (Phase III) involving rehabilitation and extension of the distribution networks and sanitation facilities. The project, estimated at $101 million was commissioned in 2013.

It came as a breath of fresh air when, in 2017, the Kaduna State Government embarked on the Zaria Water Supply Expansion Programme consisting of construction of a new water treatment plant and the rehabilitation of a water transmission and distribution system of Galma dam.

There have been visible efforts by the present administration in tackling the acute water issue. In May 2017, El-Rufai commissioned the 150 Million Liters per Day (MLD) water treatment plant of the Zaria Water Project which is providing 10 service reservoirs, 2 new booster stations and 73km of pipeline transmission mains, alongside other key components supported by the Federal Government, the African Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank.

Water scarcity bites deeper, residents groan

Despite all the efforts of the government to bring an end to the issue of water scarcity, it seems the fabled “water monster” that El-rufai promised to slay is still alive and thirsty. Residents all over the city are complaining about the lack of water. Communities such as Tudun Wada, Gyallesu, Jushi, Nagoyi, Hayin Ojo, Samaru, Zaria city and a host of others are suffering from acute water supply. As soon as the dry season sets in, most of these communities rely on wells and boreholes as their primary sources of water. As the season deepens and before the rainy season settles, residents resort to water vendors.

This year, however, has been different. Due to dwindling water level and climate change, the last rainy season was short, and hence the water scarcity started earlier this year. As a result of the ongoing Zaria Urban Renewal program which disrupted water supply, the water scarcity this year is unprecedented.

Usman Auwal, a resident of Tudun Wada Zaria, said, “Before the repairs, we used to get tap water 2 – 3 times a week but now, we’re lucky if it comes once. All our wells have dried up and we have to buy. A gallon is as high as N60 now. The government should do something about the tap water”.

SAHELIAN TIMES reporter observed that in areas such as Jushi, residents leave home as early as 3am to go to public boreholes to fetch water and stay out as late as 11pm in queues.

A water vendor, simply known as Iro said, “People are really suffering due to lack of water. I get called as early as 5am to bring water to different places but the issue is, we don’t even have where to go to fetch water. Before, we go to the Water Board in Anguwan Ƙaya but they rarely have water now. We have to either go to commercial boreholes and buy or travel far distances like G.R.A to get tap water. That’s why a gallon goes as high as N50 – N60.”

A staff of the Kaduna State Water Board (KSWB) who preferred to remain anonymous, when approached by SAHELIAN TIMES, explained that, “This lack of water is simply because of the general renovations. We are rationing water to different locations daily, that’s why it is becoming so scarce. Once all the repairs are done in Shika Dam, the problem of water supply will be no more, God willing.”

“Another issue is how many people drilled private boreholes in their houses, disrupting the water level especially for people who depend on wells. This has negatively affected the level of the groundwater, as many wells have dried up, leaving many people stranded with no water. People should not be drilling boreholes indiscriminately without the approval of the government,” he noted.

University communities affected by the shortages, students suffer

SAHELIAN TIMES investigations showed that students living in university communities such as Samaru, the home of A.B.U Zaria main campus; Tudun Wada, home to A.B.U Kongo and Gyallesu, the home of F.C.E Zaria have all been on the receiving end of the brunt. Although the institutions cater for the water needs of their students on campus, those living off-campus are left at the mercy of water vendors due to lack of tap and well water.

A student of A.B.U Samaru, Mahmud Othman, complained that he has been buying water for almost a month due to lack of water. “As strained as my budget is, I now have to budget for my daily water needs as we rarely get water supply since school resumed. It is really frustrating,” he cried.

Students of ABU Zaria

Pictures of a water tanker distributing water to students of FCE Zaria were also shared on social media, as the students living off-campus had to beg their representatives in the student council to come to their aid. One of the student representatives, Alhassan Ibrahim, said, “We received several pleas from students to help them with water. That’s why we had to intervene as we know the problem of water supply in Zaria. We hope it comes to an end soon”, he prayed.

A Doctor, who wanted to remain anonymous, in Gambo Sawaba General Hospital, Zaria, said to SAHELIAN TIMES that two months ago, several patients were lost in a brief cholera outbreak which was related to the quality of the water that was being used. He, however, noted that the prevalence is very low at the moment.

There is a need for urgent intervention to end the perennial water shortages in Zaria. The ongoing water project, if completed, would go a long way in alleviating the suffering of the people of Zaria over the perennial water scarcity in the town.

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