Governments of the five South East states have been urged to demonstrate greater political will and commitment towards reversing the poor water, sanitation and hygiene indices in their various states.
The experts made the call while interacting with our correspondent in Awka, at the end of the maiden South East Regional Water Conference, hosted by the National Water Resources Capacity Building Network, South East Centre, domiciled within Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.
One of them and Director General, National Water Resources Institute, Kaduna, Professor Emmanuel Adanu, who was represented by Engr Olabode Olusola, challenged the governments of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States to increase their investments in the sector.
“If policy makers will follow some of the actions which we have set out, it will go a long way to address the challenges. There is no proper investment in the water sector. It is relegated to the background. And you know water is life”.
Professor Valerie Nnodu, of the Department of Environmental Management, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, opined that challenges bedeviling the WASH sector had been exposed and solutions proffered, but quick actions are needed to help in changing the ugly narratives across the five states of the region.
“We plead for active implementation of all that had been said here because water is a fundamental human right. Water is available but the main problem is accessing the water that is available and that has made affordability difficult for us. We plead with our state governments to support federal government interventions to provide water for the people”.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, Ebonyi State, Mr Silas Eze, was optimistic that the conference will contribute immensely to efforts being made towards reversing the current ugly realities in the WASH sector in the region.
“For the first time in the history of water in our zone, we are coming together to brainstorm on issues affecting us. This will go a long way in solving the challenges of water and sanitation in the whole of region. I can only advise participants to put all they have learnt into practice when they can return home”.
For Professor Nkeiruka Nwaiwu, Department of Civil Engineering in the same University, South East region faces WASH crisis which demands urgent steps by relevant authorities to address holistically.
“We are talking about open defecation free communities and of all the local government areas in the entire south east region, only one, Anambra East has been declared open defecation free, ODF. That is a very poor record. We need to step up. Almost all the public supply systems are moribund in the region. Our political need to help us to give clean and quality water to the people”.
The Programme Manager, Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, RUWASSA, Anambra State, Mr Emeka Okwuogu, was happy to have been able to share the success story about the certification of Anambra East Local Government Area Open Defecation Free.
“The only Local Government that is ODF in the entire South East Region is in Anambra State. I am happy about that. When you come together and discuss, it give the region more power to bargain at the federal level and get more than we are getting now”.
Dr Emma Ezenwaji, the Director of the National Water Resources Capacity Building Network, South East Zone, organizers of the conference, observed that the event was hugely successful even as he charged the state governments of the zone to show greater commitment to WASH matters, which according to him have direct bearing on human lives.
“The take home is that our state governments should be more with issues of water. The state governments are undertaking projects that should not be the priorities at the moment. They may be good but some of the water projects don’t cost as much but they are of greater importance to the people. I appeal to our state governments to look back and ensure that this problem is solved in the South East region”
Participants maintained that sustainability of all investments should be prioritized in the renew bid to revitalize the WASH sector in the South East Region.