As Nigeria continues its struggle to acquire alternative energy source through 30 per cent coal power generation, communities have lamented the increasing impact, coal mining has on their water sources, RUTH TENE NATSA writes
Executive Director, Global Rights and host community activist, Ms Abiodun Baiyewu, said mining is a water intensive activity that requires access to a lot of water, noting that the water needs of mining companies and artisanal miners will always challenge the conflicting needs for potable water of their host communities.
She said coal adds an added dimension to the mining, agriculture and energy dynamics, noting that while the rest of the world is divesting from coal, Nigeria has decided that it would generate 30 per cent of its energy need from coal.
Speaking at the stakeholder’s engagement on contextualising Nigeria’s water resource management in mining and energy policies in Abuja, yesterday, she said the dramatic shrinking of lake chad in less than 40 years to 1/10th its size as well as, the rapidly shrinking Kaduna river, river Niger and even River Benue are all ominous signs of the fate of these natural resources in Nigeria and it is true that it is largely due to climate change.
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Ms Abiodun said the essence of the programme was to bring together core stakeholders on our natural resources in Nigeria, with particularly water and other ministries that somehow impact our water resources in Nigeria. Water is the greatest security threat that we have in Nigeria right now and is at the base of every ongoing conflict across the country.
“The core challenge with water presently is climate change but then there are other man-made causes such as mining and Nigeria’s decision to generate 30 per cent of its energy source from coal and that Nigeria is not thinking very deeply on its energy future even in the face of climate change”
She maintained, “Coal is very water intensive, whether from mining or coal power generation itself. Nigeria has not even started coal power generation, yet communities in which they have started to mine have started losing their water and their waters are polluted as well”.
“Communities such as Awo community in Kogi State, Maiganga/Komta communities in Gombe, they have all lost their waters to just a few years of coal mining.”
The Activist revealed that after speaking with some of these communities and scientifically testing some of the water, the level of pollution in less than a decade of coal mining in those communities is simply devastating.”
She stressed the need for coherent policies that would be holistic and be in sync and the sequence must be forward thinking so that if we must think of our energy future, we must think in terms of the next 40-50 years in which coal will no longer be relevant, so we must invest in renewable sources which will then be a smarter way of investing and guaranteeing the development future of our country and also its financial future.
Also speaking, a representative of Awo Akpali community, Ankpa Local Government of Kogi State and chairman of the Community Development Association, Adejoh Ibrahim Samuel, lamented the loss of water in their communities to Dangote coal mines.
In his words, “Dangote Coal Mines came to our community in, 2016, they cleared the bush after paying grossly inadequate compensation to us and then mining started February 2017. Immediately mining commenced, our community began to run out of water for the first time in the history of the community, we experienced dryness in our stream”
“There was no water for such a long time, when it began raining, the water was so bad, that we could not even use it for our baths, talk more of cooking. At this point, the community began to face lots of water challenges and were only able to survive as a result of the only borehole provided by the missionaries in 1992.”
He added, “it got to a point when they also began experiencing smells from the borehole water and had to cry to the company because in the Community Development Agreement signed with the company, there was provision for the company to provide a borehole for the host community and we cried to them. They began the project and till now it is still ongoing.
“They claimed two weeks ago that they had completed the project, but sadly the water is salty as he noted that the location of the company is on the hill top of the community which is in the valley and the mining pits are directly on the source of our water.”
“We have three sources of water in the community, these are Enedue, Enejane and these two sources connect about 18 communities, which they use for their domestic activities. At the same site we also had a spring source, but right now the dumpsite of the company has collapsed and covered the spring water.
He said they had made several reports and the Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committee (MIREMCO) had called the company and community to a dialogue, however, the company failed to honor the last two meetings
The chairman called on the federal government to help the community remedy the water situation as communities had been disconnected from their stream as a result of pollution.
Recall that prior to the water challenge, the company provided tanker water to one of the communities, even though, they could not ascertain the source of the water and now that supply had been stopped.
On the community’s water source currently, he said, “community members have to travel some distance to fetch/buy water from private boreholes, adding that even some of the water sources are salty and not drinkable, even as he lamented that erosion has washed away the farmlands and they have no roads again, the road has been disconnected.
In his keynote address, the permanent secretary to the Ministry of Water Resources, Musa Ibrahim, said Nigeria prior to the assumption of office of the current administration varied from inadequate policy issues, poor funding, low budgetary allocation, lack of political will and inadequate power supply among several others.
He said the federal government through the Partnership for Expanded Water supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) had initiated projects to rehabilitate 77,693 facilities and provide 17, 264 facilities to increase access to rural water supply from 57 per cent to 62 per cent, provision of 42, 201 new facilities to increase access to rural water supply from 62 per cent to 80 per cent
The permanent secretary maintained that Nigeria is blessed with abundant water resources; however, the sustainability is threatened by land degradation, deforestation, rapid population growth, poor sectorial investment as well as climate change. All of these have placed pressure on water resources systems of our country, he said.
“Community members have to travel some distance to fetch/buy water from private boreholes, adding that even some of the water sources are salty and not drinkable, even as he lamented that erosion has washed away the farmlands and they have no roads again, the road has been disconnected”