Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Since the 1990s when the Cameroon government stopped providing free
water in urban centres, most of the population of the commercial
capital Douala have had to resort to digging their own wells, which are
often contaminated. But four years ago, a shiny futurist-looking
structure sprang up in Bessengué Akwa, one of the city's poorest
neighbourhoods, and it is more than just a source of reliable water.
structure is truly beautiful," Rose Edouka, a resident of Bessengué
Akwa told IRIN. "It has brought life to our neighbourhood."
water fountain is unique. It sits under a polished metal frame covered
by a bright green awning designed with the idea of a butterfly in mind.
People go there not just to get water but to congregate, Edouka said.
"It is something we are proud of in our community and we make sure it
is well maintained."
Before construction commenced Cameroonian
architect Danièle Diwouta-Kotto met with the community and asked people
to envisage what the perfect water fountain would look like, Paulain
Tchuenbou, a member of Doual'art, a local organisation promoting art
and urban development which helped facilitate the meetings, told IRIN.
told the architect they wanted a water fountain that could serve as a
public attraction and meeting place," he said. The architect produced
various designs from which the community chose.
consulted on every step which makes us now feel that we own the
fountain and are responsible for it," the chief of Bessengué Akwa,
Maurice Eyango Madengue told IRIN.
How it works
Inside the structure are benches and a small general store whose manager also manages the water.
make a little money from selling water as well as a little more from
selling goods in my store," the manager, Esther Mateo told IRIN.
"Everyone benefits - I get to make a living and the community gets
constant access to water."
She sells the water for 1 CFA franc
a litre (less that a third of 1 US cent). That is half the price water
cost the community before the fountain had been built. "The nearest
other fountain was more than a kilometre from here and sometimes we
would go there and it would be closed," Edouka said.
from the new fountain is divided in three, with one part going to the
manager, one part going to the water company and one part going to a
local committee set up by the community to maintain the fountain.
hope they will find money to light the fountain," a resident David
Ndame told IRIN. "Then it would be a great place to hang out at night."
the fountain cost around 2.6 million CFA francs (US$6,200) with funding
from the European Union and the French Institut Régional de Coopération
Développement in the region of Alsace.
The project was so
successful that the World Bank decided to finance two similar fountains
nearby, though these cost 4.5 million CFA francs (US$10,750) each and
almost two years later they are yet to produce a single drop of water.
delays are worrying," an urban specialist for the World Bank Chantal
Reliquet, told IRIN by email from Washington DC, but she added the Bank
cannot be held responsible as "it did not manage the project only
financed the [municipal] government".
The engineer in charge
of the project for the municipal government, Simon Ekotto, said the
problem is communications, particularly between the water company and
the community. "There has been a lot of misunderstanding," particularly
with reference to billing, he said.
But for the chief of
Bessengué Akwa, Eyango Madengue, the problem is that the government
failed to consult the community. "And I can't say we are optimistic
that these fountains will ever become operational unless the community
can take control."
The chairperson of Doual'art, Marylin
Douala Bell, said the World Bank project was so ill-conceived that the
Bank might as well have thrown its money out the window.
tried to warn them but they wouldn't listen," she said. "An essential
element of a project like this is for the community to have
responsibility and to be given the capacity to take control of all
stages, from conception to management."
Source: IRIN NEWS http://irinnews.org