THE WATER ISSUE IN UROMI.
Once upon a time, potable water flowed in public water taps in Uromi. Yes, I can still remember vividly, as I was growing up in the late fifties and early sixties, the ubiquitous presence of water
taps in Uromi town. Right from Ivue through Egbele down to central Uromi which we refer to as Garage, along Mission/Ubiaja road where my father’s house is, water taps were installed at
strategic points. The project even extended to the roads leading to some villages like Uwalor , Ukoni, Amendokhian, Ewoyi, Ubierumu, Efandion and Utako. Uromi had two giant tanks that
served as water reservoir, one at Ivue village which some people claimed then to be one of the biggest in West Africa; and the other, along what is now known as old Agbor road. Then potable
water flowed in public taps in Uromi. At times some of the taps would get into malfunctioning and water would run uncontrollably for hours or even days before they were fixed. As children we
made fun and played with the running/wasting water. The People of Uromi looked forward with great expectation to the day water supply would be extended to individual compounds or homes,
into our kitchens and bathrooms as we were told was the case in big cities. My mother told me how the provision of pipe borne potable water to Uromi had solved a lot of problems in the
community. She told me how, prior to the water supply, two of her own mother’s siblings died of guinea worm infection, a disease which was an epidemic then and associated with the use of the
dirty water from the pond; she told me how scabies messed up the skins of some people in the community.
We were told that the water project was part of the fulfillment of the promises of the then politicians in their political campaigns to the people. We heard of great names of politicians like Chief
Obafemi Awolowo, popularly known and called “Awo” by all; and Chief Anthony Enahoro, our own son and a right hand man of Awo. Other benefits Uromi received from the then politicians were
the establishment of a hospital and a Catering Rest House, provision of free primary education and the grading/tarring of roads. At that time, politicians made promises and they delivered, at
least substantially. There was no crude oil boom. The State derived its revenue from agricultural produce of cocoa and palm oil to execute their projects and programs.
Then came the seventies with the Crude Oil boom. The country’s revenue started to double or even triple. One of the country’s Heads of State then even informed the Nation that our problem
was not money but how to spend it. People were elated at the sudden economic windfall and the rosy future ahead of all of us economically and socially. Personally, I considered myself lucky to
be born in an era my country was transiting into a prosperous and a modern nation state. The expectation of all was accelerated development all over the country, including Uromi. Ironically, it
did not take long before it downed on us that this was not to be, as people started to observe that as the Nation’s revenue increased, the infrastructural development remained at a standstill. A
case of “As the grass grows, the cow continues to starve”.
With specific reference to water project in Uromi, before the end of the seventies, the water taps in Uromi had run dry for lack of maintenance of Ugbalo Waterworks, the source of water supply
to Uromi. In no time, the giant water tanks were dismantled and their places taken over by heavy weeds. The state of other facilities such as the schools and hospital inexorably continued to
deteriorate. Yet the nation’s revenue from the crude oil continued to soar unabated. People began to wonder what was going on.
Today, getting potable water in Uromi has become luxury which many cannot afford. None of the successive governments has been able to resuscitate the broken down Ugbalo waterworks or
try to harness the numerous streams and rivers around to provide potable water for the community. Some people are suggesting that the solution is water bole holes. The few individuals who
could afford this expensive project have resorted to sinking bole holes in their homes which however run dry after a very short period of time. I learnt that the technology of sinking bole holes for
drinking water was developed out of necessity by Israel and other countries in the arid and desert regions where there are no streams or rivers to harness for that purpose. They have no
choice. But we definitely have a choice as there are enough streams and rivers our governments can harness to get drinking water in our various communities. Our problem is that we just do
not get our priorities right.
Now, with regard to water supply in Uromi, we are back to pre-1950s with no good drinking water, thereby exposing the people once again to dirty water-borne diseases, this time Cholera and
Typhoid fever. The situation has particularly affected healthcare delivery in the city. The government owned Uromi Central hospital has no water to carry out its clinical and sanitary chores. It is
not surprising therefore that patients to the hospital are asked to provide about three to four jerry-cans of water before they receive medical attention. Come to think of it, most of the medical
conditions that prompt visits to the hospital are diarrhea, cholera and typhoid fever, diseases traceable to poor sanitation due to lack of good drinking water which the people have no access
to. One then wonders how and where the hospital management expects the people to get the water that will serve as condition for receiving medical attention.
The above situation attracted the passionate attention of NAUSDA. After much debate and consideration by members, it was resolved that the permanent solution to the water problem in Uromi
is either to resuscitate the Ugbalo waterworks or the harnessing of the nearby river at Ugboha town. As these projects are considered capital intensive, members concluded that the association
should continue to exact pressure on the government or the relevant body to undertake the project. It was further resolved that as a short term measure, the association should sink a water
bole hole at the premises of the Central Hospital to alleviate the water problem there.
This mission was accomplished earlier this year, 2014 and it has been commissioned. For now potable water is running in all the departments of Uromi Central Hospital.
Thanks to all those who made this project possible.
We are still waiting for the government to carry out its duties and responsibilities to its people.
Ben Omon Etiobhio
Chairman BoT of NAUSDA
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF UROMI SONS AND DAUGHTERS, USA
Copyright © 2011. National Association of Uromi Sons and Daughters, USA.