NIGERIA: New treatment plant leaves Kano short of water

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A new ultra-modern US $58 million water treatment plant outside Kano, officially Nigeria’s most populous city, came on line in December but experts say that the city’s basic water needs will still not be met.

“The Tamburawa water project was initiated more out of political considerations than solving Kano’s water problem,” recently retired water engineer at Kano’s Water Board, Nasiru Hamisu, told IRIN. “The intention was to patronise influential elements in society who were awarded the contract.”

Kano has been grappling with water shortages for years, producing less than half of its daily requirements of 440 million litres per day, according to local water experts.

The state government has vigorously defended the new plant, “We want to tackle Kano’s water problem once and for all,” government spokesman Ibrahim Garba told IRIN. “The best approach is to have an ultra-modern water treatment plant to complement the existing ones.”

The managing director of Kano’s water board also said, “The construction of this new water treatment plant, which will provide an additional 150 million litres a day, will go a long way in solving the water problem in Kano.”

However he added that even when the plant is fully operational “we will have a deficit of about 90 million litres a day.”

Step backwards

Rather than construct a new plant, Hamisu said the government should have rehabilitated three existing plants at Challawa River and Goje Dam, which have been providing most of Kano’s water.

“If the government can undertake a complete rehabilitation of the Challawa water treatment plants, overhaul the pumps and electrical equipment, and carry out dredging of the Challawa River, there would be no need for the Tamburawa water plant,” he said.

Instead water from Challawa River has been diverted to the new Tamburawa plant. This leaves the older plants with only the dam as their source of water. “There is a greater likelihood of a shut down [at the older plants] if there are problems at the dam,” Hamisu said.

Another problem, he said, is that when the new plant is fully functional it will require six electric water pumps that depend on the Nigerian power company which is unreliable. The state has stepped in by providing four back-up generators to run the pumps but each of these consumes 33,000 litres of fuel daily at an estimated cost of $117,000. “Kano state cannot bear this huge cost,” Hamisu said.

But for Kano’s state spokesman Garba, “No amount is too much to commit to provide drinking water to the people of Kano… In fact, we plan to have more Tamburawa plants if our finances can afford.”

Construction of the Tamburawa plant started two years ago by the Canadian company Patterson Candy.

“I am proud to say that the Tamburawa project can compete with any other in the world in terms of quality and performance,” senior project manager at Patterson Candy Roy Strover told IRIN.

“Any [issue] outside the terms of the contract is not for us to dwell on,” he added.

Source: IRIN