Inside Katsina Community Where Water is Gold
Residents of Ungwan Liman community in Batagarawa Local Government Area of Katsina State are left to their fate as they scramble daily searching for water, writes Francis Sardauna.
For 45-year-old Halima Ahmadu, accessing potable water in her Ungwan Liman community in Batagarawa Local Government Area of Katsina State, is a nightmare. Halima, like many other women in the community, wake up as early as 3 am daily searching for the scarce commodity for family use.
The mother of ten often scrambles all the trenches dug by the men in the community to see if any would have sprung out water during the night. But most times, Halima returns home without water and even when she is lucky to scoop a small amount, it is usually contaminated.
Located a few kilometres away from Katsina, the seat of power, Ungwan Liman community, has a deplorable road with most residents looking bemire, skinny and weak seemingly because there is no potable water for them to drink.
With potholes and craters, commuting on the road leading to the community has become a nemesis for motorists and commuters in the area. When it rains, plying the route becomes a nightmare for residents, who complain of frequent breakdown of their motorcycles and vehicles.
However, Halima said getting water at those odd hours is usually not without a struggle with other women who also left behind the safety of their homes in the wee hours of the day, searching for the crucial human need often referred to as life.
Water fetched from the ditches is little and dirty, but Halima, as many other women in the community, content herself with her lot. Even when she attempts to purify the brown coloured water with potassium alum, the colour always remains the same.
Sadly, Halima and other women in the community always tussle with domestic animals for the coloured water. “We will go back to the ditches in the afternoon, by 2pm, we will nose across all the ditches like snakes alongside our animals to see if there is enough water to scoop”, Halima said while lowering her voice as if she would cry.
It usually takes hours for Halima and her peers in the community to fill their buckets and jerricans with such coloured water which runs contrary to the World Health Organisation’s water standard, which states that water should be colourless.
Narrating her abhorrent experience to THISDAY in the community, Halima added that: “We will sit there and wait. We will dig the ditches deeper atimes. If we notice the water is coming out from one source, we scoop it into our buckets and take it home for drinking and domestic purposes.”
Although the community has three wells, the Community Leader, Ahmadu Shuaibu, said all the three locally constructed wells normally dry up during dry season, adding that they were dug by individuals but have been abandoned by the government.
He said: “So, we resort to digging up holes in sand for dirty water which we drink, use to cook and for other household activities. We dig the holes and scoop the dirty water which has accumulated into a bowl, then wait for it to accumulate again.
“We and our animals drink from the same holes we manage to dig through community efforts. The cattle rearers also use the holes with their cattle. This has been our sad experience for so many years. Government should please come to our rescue by constructing motorised boreholes for us”.
THISDAY observed that the struggle to get water for cooking and house chores makes bathing optional in most households in the community. Residents, mostly children, hardly bathe due to the acute water scarcity bedeviling the agrarian community for decades.
“Due to the difficulty of getting water to drink and to perform ablution for our daily prayers, most of us can stay for days without bathing”, another resident, Mohammed Kabir said.
He added that the daily competition for water among women, men and animals in the community has degenerated into an unhealthy rivalry.
He called on the state government to pay urgent attention to the water crisis in the community, which presently threatens the lives of an estimated population of 2,000 residents, especially children, women and expectant mothers.
Kabir explained that there was an existential threat looming dangerously, and which may overpower the state government’s health care sector if nothing is urgently done to tackle the acute water shortage experienced by inhabitants of the community.
While the people of Ungwan Liman suffer daily searching for clean water, the community is littered with abandoned water projects that could have alleviated their suffering if they were functional. Thus, there are two abandoned hand boreholes in the community.
Investigation by THISDAY revealed that one of the moribund boreholes was constructed by a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member 11 years ago. It was rehabilitated in November 2018 by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with other partners but got spoiled a year after it was repaired. The second one, according to residents, was drilled by Batagarawa Local Government Council in 2007 but got spoiled in 2009.
Woe betides any resident of the community who falls sick or requires medical attention because there is no building in the community that can safely be called a Primary Healthcare Centre nor a primary school for children to even acquire elementary education.
There has been little or no government presence in the community despite its proximity to Katsina, the state capital. Residents said their children usually trekked about six kilometres daily to access the only primary school located in a neighbouring community, Makurdi.
In a bid to facilitate easy access to education for their children, the residents said they contributed money and acquired land within the community two years ago for the government to build a school for them “but nothing has been done by the government”.
The seemingly distraught residents appealed to the state Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, to approve the immediate establishment of a primary school in the community to enable their children get easy access to education.
“How can we be subjecting these kids to trekking six kilometres in this 21st century, in Nigeria? Just to access primary and secondary education. The life we lived, our children cannot live it, talk less of our grandchildren.
“How can you ask your son to trek 6km every day and five days a week? It is not going to work! That is why we put our efforts into acquiring a plot of land for the government to come and build a school for us”, Hassan Idris, one of the residents added.
He said the long distance discourages most parents from sending their children to school, a development which has resulted in many out-of-school children roaming the community.
He lamented that some of the children have resorted to hawking and farming activities, adding that most of them don’t go to school during the rainy season “because of the distance and the difficulties of crossing the only bridge linking our community and Makurdi where their school is located”.
Another resident, Yakubu Usman, who spoke on the deplorable nature of the road leading to the community, said: “We have complained to government officials on several occasions about the road but they have not done anything to assist us. Sometimes, we apply self-help by putting stones, sand and gravel on the road but they are easily washed away”.
While claiming that both the local and state governments have abandoned the community despite working for the success of the APC-led government in the state, Usman said the road needs to be reconstructed. “The road, if constructed, will go a long way in improving the life of people in the area”.
But the chairman of Batagarawa Local Government, Hon. Bala Garba-Tsanni, could not be reached for comments as he did not pick his calls or reply to text messages sent to his phone numbers.
With this development, residents of Ungwan Liman community are left to their fate as they scramble daily searching for water which they referred to as gold. Lack of access to basic education for their children, good roads and electricity remain the major predicaments of the agrarian community.
So, we resort to digging up holes in sand for dirty water which we drink, use to cook and for other household activities. We dig the holes and scoop the dirty water which has accumulated into a bowl, then wait for it to accumulate again. We and our animals drink from the same holes we manage to dig through community efforts.