9 February 2007

Nigeria: Water: Santar Kanya, Kurheji Villages Cry to 'Yar'Adua

Kano — Residents of Santar Kanya and Kurheji villages in Ingawa local government area of Katsina state have a common problem. They are enterprising farmers whose annual turnover of millet, guinea corn, groundnut and beans total several thousands of tons, according to a farmer in the area, Malam Idris Santar Kanya. But they are unhappy communities because they lack potable water.

When Pyramid Trust reporter visited the area last week, scores of men, women, children and the elderly scample for drinking water at a dirty pond used also by their animals as a source of drinking water. The pond, our investigations revealed, was the result of years of excavation of red earth available in the location by the two communities for their annual renovation of huts and buildings destroyed or washed away by rains.

Malam Idris, who spoke on behalf of the Santar Kanya village, said they were forced to resort to the dirty pond because the only borehole functioning in the village out of the two dug by the Ingawa local government council is besieged by youths struggling to get water who are always fighting, and in the process injuring themselves.

"There are many people in this village. It is not a small village. The houses are spread to the left and right of this main road. But we all depend on one borehole, so those of us who cannot struggle with those healthy and strong young men, would come here and fetch water for our drinking purpose and domestic use," he said.

Another resident of Santar Kanya, Malam Abdullahi, said successive local government chairmen had promised to solve the problem of the communities on potable water but failed to fulfil them. He said the two communities had representatives in the state's House of Assembly as well as local government council but have not been able to fulfill their promises to solve the problem of water supply to the two villages.

He added: "All of them do not reside here in the village nor in Ingawa. They live with their families in Katsina. That is why they don't feel the pain of living without potable water or drinking from this dirty water. If you go to Mani and Mashi, which are our neighbours, they have a special tank that gets water from over 12 boreholes and we learnt that it was their local chairman and member of the House of Representatives that helped to put that for them. Why can't our chairman copy that example?"

An old woman from Santar Kanya village who also fetched her water from the pond, Malama Hadiza, said she had been drinking the water from the pond but has not had any infection except occasional rashes on her face which disappear when she applies local herbs. She said the village had not had water for years until the borehole was drilled. But she complained that people are always fighting over who fetches water at the borehole because of the growing population of the village.

Other villagers from Santar Kanya also spoke of the rashes and stomach pains that sometimes affect them when they drink the water from the pond. An elderly man, Idris, said they had no other source of water.

"We don't have alternative to this pond, so what do we do but to be using it hoping that Allah will protect us from whatever disease there is? I pray that Governor Umaru Musa would come to our aid. I heard that he has been giving water to many villages in other parts of Katsina. He should please come and see our condition and help us too," said Idris.

While Santar Kanya residents consider themselves lucky because of the proximity of the pond to their abode, which is just about 100 metres away from the village, those of Kurheji are not that lucky because they have to use oxen, donkeys, bicycles or their heads to carry the water from the pond to their homes which is about 500 metres away.

Mallam Haruna Kurheji told Pyramid Trust that he fetches water in the morning for the household while his children fetch the water in the evening when they return from school. He said they had a borehole which has broken down for over three years and neither the local government authorities nor the state government has made attempts to fix it.

"We have made several attempts through our community association to get the representatives of this area to help in reviving our water source which is the borehole, but they kept promising they will do it. Up to now, we have not seen any of them," added Mallam Haruna.

Asked whether they will vote the same representatives this time around as the election is around the corner, Malam Haruna said, "We will vote wisely this time around. We are not going to vote people who will not listen to our yearnings and aspirations, although sometimes the person that you vote for is not who end up being the winner of the election."

Master Abubakar who is about 12 years old was seen struggling with jerry cans of water on his bicycle moving towards Kurheji. When asked for how long he has been running the errand, he said, "I go to fetch water for my parents twice day, in the morning and in the evening. In the morning, I have to make five trips to fill all the containers in our house, and in the evening, I make another four trips, sometimes five depending on the need for water in the house. We use the water for drinking, cooking and bathing."

The lad who said he is in primary four said he sometimes go late to school as a result of the water fetching but said they have not experienced any outbreak of disease in their family as a result of drinking from the dirty pond.

Alhaji Ibrahim Kurheji, told Pyramid Trust that the problem of water supply to the two communities at Kurheji and Santar Kanya is beyond the local government because it requires heavy investment. He therefore called on the state government to intervene and embark on a similar water project that was constructed for Mani and Mashi to end the water problem in the area.

When Pyramid Trust sought the Ingawa local government chairman at the local government secretariat for comments, he was said to have travelled to Katsina where he is said to reside with his family.

An effort to contact the local government secretary who resides at Ingawa was also not successful as he was said to have traveled to Katsina. But an official of the local government who did not want his name in print told Pyramid Trust that the problem of water supply is a peculiar one to the entire area covering Mashi, Mani, Ingawa and Kusada local government areas.

He said, "Most of these areas have a peculiar geographical formation that makes water drilling impossible. So many efforts have been made in the past to drill boreholes but the water level is always difficult to reach. Feasibility studies have been carried out on many occasions at those villages you mentioned, but we can't get to the water level. Specialised equipment are required for such job."

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