Enugu Water Crisis and a Possible Panacea

Enugu literally means city on a hill. This goes without saying that access to underground water will be difficult to come by because of the topography. This situation is worse off during the dry season from November through to March. The rainy season helps to reduce the impact. Hence leaving a perennial crisis on the laps of the citizens. 

According to reports, 2.5 million people in Enugu state do not have access to basic water services. This lack of access has a ripple effect on agriculture, the economy, and health. Reduced access to water will lead to an increase in open defecation and poor hygiene. So many communities have had to turn to hand-dug wells which dry up during the dry season. 

Urban settlers use water tankers to cushion the effect of water scarcity. With these solution providers realizing their importance, they gradually scaled up their prices, and in over a year, there’s been a 200% increase in water prices. This caused people untold hardship, with living expenses constantly on the rise and income remaining the same.

Being able to afford a water tanker is no guarantee you will get water. During the dry season, it takes up to a week to get the water tankers to come supply. This is due to the enormous demand and a low number of suppliers. It begs the question, what happens to those who can’t afford to pay the huge price demanded by the suppliers? 

The Water Sector Bill has been proposed to the state house of Assembly and has been on the floor of the house since 2019. But for some unknown reason, this bill hasn’t gone past the first reading since its introduction to the floor of the house. The passage of this bill into law among other things will ensure the government takes concrete actions in the following areas:

  • Providing pipe-borne water for all urban and small-town households. 
  • Less privileged households will get water at a subsidized rate. 
  • Water use charge for maintenance of resources. 

So far in time past, efforts to make the state legislature pass this bill into law have proved ineffective. However, in March 2021, South Saharan Social Development Organization (SSDO) pushed advocacy efforts to repel the Enugu State Gubernatorial Pension Bill proposed at the state legislature. After an assurance by the Speaker of the House of Assembly to drop the bill, we channeled our energy to the water bill. 

On March 22, we leveraged World Water Day to push the #WaterBillByJune campaign. The aim of this campaign was to get the state house of assembly to pass the WASH bill by June. Channeling all resources to ensure that this goal became a reality. 

We partnered with relevant stakeholders and government agencies to map out strategies to make this goal a reality, citing the water plight of the people as an anomaly that needs to be corrected. On July 17, we worked with WaterAid Nigeria, Enugu State Ministry of Water Resources, and galvanized other relevant stakeholders to a stakeholder meeting to chart a way forward. This legislative process yielded many fruits and policies were decided upon to implement the Enugu Water Sector Law. 

On July 27, the state house of assembly finally passed the right access to basic water and sanitation services, WASH bill into law. Though we did not achieve it at the set date, the effort, advocacy, and campaigns paid off a month later. And this culminated in a bigger win for the people of the state. As the bill passage will result in better access to water and sanitation services. 

It will also help the state in its course to be Open Defecation Free by 2025. With the constant availability of water, advocacy for toilet facilities can become more fruitful.       

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