Officials in northern Nigeria’s Kano State have rehabilitated a creaking water plant in the small town of Wudil, 30 km south of Kano city in an effort to bring residents cheap, safe water, but some question if the price will stay affordable. Less than 40 percent of Kano State’s population of nine million had access to clean water in 2004.
[...] Before the plant was rehabilitated, up to 200,000 people living in and around Wudil relied on a nearby river, open wells or 25-litre containers of water purchased from private sellers at 7 US cents each. Wudil resident Ali Nera, father of nine [said] he paid US$1.30 every day for water for his family and to maintain his garden, which amounted to 20 percent of his average monthly salary. Now [...] he pays a flat US$2 monthly rate – a 95-percent savings.
Initially local people were sceptical about the government delivering clean water, according to a DFID report about the project. But some residents report that even the water tastes different now. “We now have safer, cleaner and tastier and cheaper water than what we were getting from [private] water vendors,” resident Kamilu Musa [said, adding that] his children no longer spend three hours every day walking to the well or river where they wait to collect water.
The Kano government currently heavily subsidises the water it provides: it costs the state 13 cents to produce one cubic metre of water, but users are only charged one-tenth this cost, which is not sustainable said Yahaya Bala Karaye, managing director of the Kano State Water Board.
“If we charge a higher rate and cover our overhead, they [residents] will be discouraged from patronising us and settle for river water or private water vendors with all the inherent health implications in doing so,” Karaye [said].
Private vendors [...] said water quality depends on whether they get it from the river, or open or closed wells.
Eventually, Karaye said prices must increase. “We are gradually sensitising the people of the importance of clean and safe water and once the people…appreciate the dangers of consuming unsafe water, we would add a small margin on the cost of production of the water we supply the public,” Karaye said.
Musa Abdullahi Sufi, project coordinator at the Kano-based NGO, Society for Water and Public Health Production [said] in parts of Nigeria, corruption keeps water prices artificially high. “In many cases clean water is supplied to the public at higher than real costs due to corrupt practices by water board officials”. “Expenditure for the procurement of chemicals and other [water] treatment requirements is usually inflated and the added funds siphoned by officials,” Sufi added. States are responsible for supplying Nigerians with water.
But Karaye from Kano state’s water board [said] people should not make assumptions. “Some people assume every government agency is corrupt and therefore make wild allegations without any concrete proof to substantiate their claims,” Karaye said. “Here in Kano, our books are periodically audited by the government and we have never been implicated [in] financial impropriety.”
Source: IRIN, 30 Mar 2009