A University don has said that the various River Basin Development Authorities set up by government to ensure availability of water for domestic and other uses have not lived up to expectations and deliver on their mandates as the country continue to grapple with crippling water scarcity. Philip Oguntunde, a Professor of Ecohydrology and Water Resources Engineering, made the observation while delivering the 145th inaugural lecture series of the Federal University of Technology, Akure,FUTA with the title, “ The Water Paradox: Naturally Abundant but Scarcely Available,” on Tuesday, 20th December, 2022 .
Reviewing the performance of the River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs)in Nigeria, the don said the operation of RBDAs has greatly been influenced by the socio-economic and political changes in the country, leaving a big vacuum and inconsistency in the performances of these RBDAs such that years after their establishment, their effect has been so minimal. He therefore wants government to immediately embark on the reappraisal and repositioning of the RBDAs in the country. According to Oguntunde, “there is a need to revisit, re-strategize and reposition these agencies to deliver on their laudable mandates.”
The don who lamented the continuous dangers posed by refuse management in the environment called for a constant re-orientation and attitudinal change towards sanitation and environmental protection issues. He said “indiscriminate dumping of refuse and open defecation in rural-urban areas need to stop forthwith. Disposing unsafe wastewater in water bodies must be checked to protect aquatic lives and ecosystem functioning.”
He added that in Nigeria, like many other developing countries, degraded water bodies due to indiscriminate pollution and environmental abuse are prevalent and recommended using ecological engineering principles to restore the water ecosystem’s physical, chemical and biological composition as close as possible to the native state. He said this lead to ecosystem structure and function (e.g. energy flow, nutrient cycling and community resilience) that more closely approximates the natural condition. He further said that a deeper understanding of the interactions between streams and terrestrial plant communities, from local hydraulics to floodplain evolution will facilitate the transition.
Addressing the government, the don said there is a need for proper water governance and hence the need to fast-track action on the National Water Resources Bill and make it a people-centred bill. He added that the current logjam should be holistically resolved using a bottom-up approach. He said the intention of the Bill, which is aimed at ensuring that the nation’s water resources are adequately protected from degradation and pollution to enhance citizens’ rights of access to clean Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH), is fully delivered at the end of the day. He made a clarion call for the enactment of a law that will compel all Ministries, Departments and Agencies to patronize academic and research institutions so that research findings could be translated to developmental policies and technological innovations for the good of Nigeria.
Stressing the importance of water further, Oguntunde said “water is so essential to life that in our own interest, we must pay special attention to its availability and sustainability through research and development. Therefore, I unequivocally recommend the establishment of a funding body to be called National Water Research Fund and/or particular thematic focus in the existing funds (Ecological Fund, TETFund, PTDF, etc.) to continuously look into all aspects of water from various sources to end users and by-products including innovative re-use and tapping into unconventional sources.”
Oguntunde, currently the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Development of the university said to have increase water production, data driven water resources planning must be in place in Nigeria and other Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). According to him, “data about hydro-climatic and hydrological conditions must be more efficiently collected and shared across SSA. These data should be used to generate reliable water availability analysis i.e. how much water is and will be available, including water storage to build redundancy for both domestic and agricultural uses. These data should be transformed into information about water availability and accessibility to managers across different water-related fields to increase the understanding of water challenges and encourage required actions.”
The don who described water as the new liquid gold of the 21st century said “water is a basic necessity, enabling people to function and human activity to flourish. Water plays a significant role in the modern day agricultural and industrial revolution. Both subsistence and commercial agriculture relied heavily on water availability. The water-food-energy (WFE) nexus, also referred to as Food-Energy-Water (FEW) nexus, describes the critical interconnection between three essential resources for human societies.”
In her address, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Adenike Oladiji, who chaired the event, applauded the excellent delivery of the lecture. She said truly, Professor Oguntunde addressed the crux of the matter and urged all to take to the recommendations. She described Professor Oguntunde as an asset to the university and his field of study.