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To celebrate World Water Day 2021 we would like to share a story from Cameroon about the current situation with water in the south of the country. 

Text and photo by Beko’o B’Evina Marguerite Solange.

Water, they often say, is life. You will all agree on the veracity of this saying. Everyone needs water on a daily basis to be used differently, it is most needed in various aspects of our daily routine. Water is essential for the survival and productivity of all life and ecosystems.

In Ebolowa, chief town of the South Region of Cameroon, is in the heart of the equatorial forest. With this forest, it would be normal to have a good supply in water for its ecosystems and  population. Unfortunately, getting water in Ebolowa has been a daunting task for most of the population living in this town. The company in charge of distributing pipe borne water, known as CAMWATER, finds it difficult to provide the population with the precious liquid. The majority of the population in Ebolowa and their households are not connected to this water system and therefore have to look for other ways and means of getting water on a daily basis.

Some institutions, such as the the Regional Delegation of Communication or the Our Lady of Resurrection Catholic Primary School, and good Samaritans in Ebolowa have wells that they put at the disposal of the general public too. It is common to see men, women, youths and even children rushing to the few wells in town to get a few drops of water for their household needs. Most often they come along with 20 litre cans to be able to fetch the most and not be compelled to come to the well many times in a day given that some come from far distances.

The availability of wells in neighbourhoods of Ebolowa is not enough compared to the growing population. An average of two wells in a neighbourhood are used by as many as 15 to 20 households in a radius of 2 kilometres.

The impact of the drought this year on the water tables was very harsh. Water provision/production in Ebolowa during the just ending dry season was negatively impacted. With the severe drought that lasted much longer (from November 2020 to Mid March 2021), getting water for households was an uphill task. The harshness of the drought dried up wells thereby making the demand more pressing. The few available wells were over-exploited to the extent of completely drying up the water in some and pushing their owners to close them to the public. The remaining few have since then been overused by the needy communities. This over exploitation too makes these wells dry up quickly, which means people can fetch water only for a few hours in the day.

As the dry season is gradually fading away in Ebolowa giving way to the rainy (wet) season, our thoughts are turned to the local Council Authorities (Mayors) and the water supply company (CAMWATER), to suggest how they can improve the situation for the poor and undeserved communities.

The water providing company should see how to extend its distribution to more neighbourhoods in Ebolowa, given the exponential growth of the population which requires more water. The local Councils (Mayors) should, in their programs, build wells in neighbourhoods to avoid having people going past two or three neighbourhoods to get water for their various daily needs. Environmental experts should assist communities by giving good advise on appropriate practices to better manage the available water sources to avoid wastage and shortage in water provision.

Let us remember that the good management of our water system significantly determines the interlink between households, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment.

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