Rejoinder: Still on water challenge in Lagos (1)

Mr. Nnimmo Bassey

Mr. Nnimmo Bassey

OUR attention has been drawn to the recent article by Mr. Nnimmo Bassey in the Tribune and The Guardian newspapers. Consequently, we find it necessary to address the issues raised by the author.

It would have been far more constructive and enlightening for the writer to meet with Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) prior to forming an opinion on this matter.

We therefore state as follows:
The Lagos State Government has never at any time considered the sale or divestment of ANY of LWC water assets.

On the contrary, the much maligned Public Private Partnership (PPP) only seeks to “partner” with the private sector for accelerated development of water infrastructure to meet our current water demand in Lagos State, which presently stands at 660 million gallons per day (MGD) for a population of 22 million.

This is not “Privatization” where assets are sold off to the Private sector.
The need to engage Private capital in water supply for urgent supply capacity expansion cannot be over-emphasized.

Currently, total existing water assets, if run at 100% efficiency with stable power supply, stands at 210 MGD, leaving a shortfall or deficit of 450 million gallons per day. Hence, only about 7 million of the 22 million will get water, while 15 million will still be without!

Today, shortfall in supply is characterized by proliferation of boreholes all over the State, with its attendant environmental and health hazards (saline water intrusion from the Atlantic Ocean, land subsidence, pollution with its attendant health implications).

With an estimated 1,500 people migrating to Lagos daily, it is projected that by year 2020, the population of Lagos State will be about 29 million, with a water demand of 733 million gallons per day; making Lagos the 3rd largest megacity after Beijing and Mumbai.

Only a handful of Sub-Saharan African countries can boast of a population index of 20 million. In fact, our current population (22 million) is almost equivalent to that of Ghana.

No responsible government will ignore an issue as important as water without a proactive plan that will ensure that challenges occasioned by lack of water in a rapidly urbanizing society like ours are not promptly addressed.

According to the WHO/UNESCO, 66 million Nigerians do not have access to potable water; premature death from water related diseases cost the country $2.5 billion, while $191 million was spent on healthcare for diarrhea alone in 2012.

In order to address the current water demand and meet the projection of the near future, LWC developed a Water Master plan in year 2010 to take the State from its current 210 MGD to 745 MGD, through accelerated development of additional large water schemes taking raw water from Rivers and the Lagoons for treatment into potable water.

The estimated cost of this is about $3.5 billion dollars. The writer justifiably feels that the State Government should be able to finance this! To do this, it will take the government about three and half years to fund, with every naira income going into the water sector alone! With other equally demanding sectors (Health, Education, Security, Social services, etc), an investment of this magnitude cannot be solely undertaken by any Government.

It may further interest the writer to know that we have commenced the implementation of the Master Plan with the ongoing construction of Adiyan phase 2, to give additional 70 million gallons per day. It will be completed in 2016.

This is being funded by the State government; but noteworthy that this is coming 23 years after Adiyan phase 1 due to the huge investment required. In addition to this, the Lagos State Government completed the Otta-Ikosi water works (4 million gallons per day) to serve 11 communities between Ikorodu and Epe.

Consequently, in view of the exponential population growth rate, the State needs to accelerate developing additional large water schemes with private capital to avert an imminent water crisis with a burgeoning population and boreholes possibly going saline.

To be continued• Holloway is the Managing Director of Lagos State Water Corporation

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