Drilling for Water or Digging Up a Drought?

23 Apr

borehole

In different parts of Nigeria, as hundreds of ‎new buildings spring up daily, holes are drilled deep into the land for clean water. Land experts say this indiscriminate borehole drilling could cause land subsidence or collapse in the future, and could also contaminate ground water. Should citizens have the right to get their water wherever they can? Or should the drilling stop – and where would the water come from in this case? I am a Heinrich Boell Foundation i-resource explorer. Read my story, and watch my video.

As I drove into estate today, I observed that every building had a water tank, and a tank usually has a source of water. In the case of the estate, a borehole does the job, so each building has drilled a hole for water. Count the hundreds of building, and you will realize how many drillings this land mass has experienced. Abraham Adesanya Ajah isn’t the only estate drilling for water, most houses on the Lekki Ajah axis are in same drilling dilemma. Unlike many residents in some parts of Lagos with access to portable water from the Lagos state water, but who chose to still drill their personal boreholes, this part has no access to portable water yet, so residents just have to drill.

I have heard of the effects of indiscriminate drilling of boreholes on land and ground water, and imagined how soon these consequences would come knocking. In my generation or my daughters’?
My concern about the effect of boreholes on land did not start as I drove in this day. It started a long time back as a kid growing up in Aba, Abia State. I remember people rushed out with every item that could store some water no mater how small, when ever some one screamed “pump agbawala” meaning, the tap is running. There was this family in our building popularly called ” yard” who would keep mute about their water discovery. They would quietly fill every item in their apartment including the bath tubs, didn’t matter if the discovery was made late in the night, then let other families in on their “sudden” discovery, as they enjoy watching them scrabble to make the longggggg queue. That was how difficult getting this life necessity was back then, and still is.

Abia State Water Corporation stopped pumping in 2002. With this failure by the government to provide water and reduce the sufferings of the people, Aba people became desperate and they also became innovative. They embraced the technology that makes it possible to pump water from underground, good to meet their daily water needs. Back then, my little brain thought ” If several holes are dug in a land, wouldn’t there be a possible collapse some day, affecting the entire city of Aba? Recently, I visited Aba, and the water situation has gotten even worse, with shallow holes being drilled, unsafe water extracted, and residents plagued with health issues. So beyond the impact on land, ground water is possibly getting contaminated in this city. Well, that was lots of years ago and today I am in Lagos, yet the story is the same.

I spoke with Mr Shayo Hollaway, Group managing director, Lagos State Water Corporation. He confirmed my fears. “this indiscriminate water abstraction creates a void in the water table, which could lead to land subsidence”.

Mr Onuorah Aligbe, a Geologist in Lagos says,  ”Not all boreholes drilled affect land, but  uncontrolled drilling will. Individuals should not drill because they call in non professionals with no knowledge of controlling drilling operations and who do no study to choose a perfect aquifer that is sustainable.  Most of the boreholes that are 20-80 ft, on the 1st level of the aquifer  usually fed by rainfall percolation into the ground hardly gets depleted, so the effect is minimal on land, but medium to deep boreholes could cause land subsidence, by the it’s resultant emptying of the internal aquifer”.
However, many Nigerians do not believe there are dangerous effects from this. No one needs or gets any licence to drill anymore as government has lost control of borehole drilling. Mrs Juliet lives in Ajah. She shared her thoughts with me. ” it is convenient, and there is no steady water from water works”.
Even though she has heard of the possible consequences, she says she would still drill her personal borehole if she had the means, instead of sharing with fellow residents. ” yes, I will prefer to have my own personal borehole, so I will stop disturbing those who have”.

I watched Tunde, a borehole driller and his crew drill a fresh borehole from start to finish. The local process requires lots of energy, cement to fill in the hole when ”clean” water is found, some glue and blue omo to seal the pipe after the pipe is melted with fire. I asked about his business and  if he understood ground water contamination or possible building collapse.  ”we dey drill like 5 to 10 boreholes a day, and e dey cost because the work no easy, and we dey drill pass where the foundation of the house dey, so the house no fit collapse.  Some area get Mirinda water or Lacasera water and we fit help them treat the water sef”.

http://www.ng.boell.org/

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