Can Nigeria achieve total access to water and sanitation by the year 2030, and the South East region attain open defecation free by 2025?
Also, what can be done to develop the skills and knowledge base needed to achieve these dreams?
These and more questions were posed to scholars, researchers, industry experts, entrepreneurs, innovators, and policy makers in the water resources sector as they gathered in Awka for the first ever South East Regional Water Conference currently holding at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.
Correspondent David Okpokwasili was at the opening ceremony of the Conference and now reports.
Despite the development of the National Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, WASH, Action plan in December 2018, which aimed that by 2030, universal access to water supply would have been achieved, the journey to achieving this dream seems to quickly be turning into a mirage, as three years into this plan, many States and regions of the country are still miles away from this lofty goal.
For example, in the whole of the South East, only Anambra East Local Government Area of Anambra State has been declared open defecation free, becoming the thirty – ninth Local Government nationally to attain the status, leaving out seven hundred and thirty-five others, who are still on the lower rungs of the ladder in open defecation and sanitation.
So, the three-day South East Regional Water Conference, with the theme, “Challenges of Water Supply and Sanitation in Nigeria”, organized by the National Water Resources Building Network, South East, beyond hoping to see ways to accelerate access to water supply in the South East, also targets to identify ways to develop the capacities and knowledge base needed to achieve these aims.
The Conference also brings together innovators, industry experts and entrepreneurs, with modern and state-of-the-art water and Sanitation materials and equipment that will help to address the challenges of water resources in the South East Region.
Leading the discussion for a better future in the water access in Nigeria, the Director, Water Supply and Public – Private Partnership, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Engineer Benson Ajisegiri, represented by Mr. Olufadeju Olagoke, who was the keynote speaker at the event, said the Federal Government is committed to supporting other sub-nationals and stakeholders in any reform that is needed to increase access to water in the country.
The convener of the Conference and Director, National Water Resources Building Network, South East Centre, Dr. Emma Ezenwaji, said the dearth of trained professionals in the sector has made the implementation of reforms that will make the realization of the aims of the National WASH action plan difficult, but with the efforts of the Centre, in collaboration with Nnamdi Azikiwe University, several undergraduate and post-graduate degree programmes that will train the human resources needed in the sector have been started or in the pipeline.
For the Vice-Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Professor Charles Esimone, who spoke through his Deputy in charge of Administration, Professor Joseph Ikechebelu, it is important that policy makers draw from the recommendations that will be made at the end of the Conference to effectively tackle the portable water supply challenges in the country, while assuring of the University’s support in the area of boosting research.
The Conference, which featured paper presentations on ways to address numerous challenges facing water access and sanitation in the country, also had innovators exhibit modern and sustainable facilities that can be used in different levels to create access to water.