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Interview

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We are with Hon. Engr. Peter Ohagwa, the Principal Officer Imo Water Corporation, Chairman IWADA. Sir today is Water Day. Can you brief us on the concept “Water day” to the ordinary people of the state?

We are with Hon. Engr. Peter Ohagwa, the Principal Officer Imo Water Corporation, Chairman IWADA. Sir today is Water Day. Can you brief us on the concept “Water day” to the ordinary people of the state?


As the Principal Officer Imo Water Corporation and Chairman of IWADA as appointed by his Excellency to oversee this corporation and to ensure that the policies and programmes of the government is effected and workers are there to do what they are supposed to do. Now the Water Day is a day set aside by the World Health Organization to celebrate water and to talk about water and to ensure that we really look in-depth to fathom the productivity of water for the consumption of everyone. Usually on a day like this, on my own, as Water Engineer, I have always addressed issues concerning water in the past and educate people on the need to improve our sanitation through water supplies.
So Water Day is a day for us to have a sober reflection on how far we have gone in improving the quality of water and the availability of water to the people through government incentives, policies, individual contributions and of course the efforts of the rural dwellers to ensure that the water is there for consumption. That is why it is a United Nations and World Health Organization issue talking about it. In the developed world, the policies of the issue concerning water are checked and repackaged for a greater improvement that is what Water Day is all about.
Sir, as a Water Engineer, what kind of water is safe for human consumption?
Well as far as I am concerned, World Health Organization said that a good drinking water must have 75% of iron content, it would be odourless, colourless and will not have any impurity and you cannot perceive or smell on it. That is a judge to the safest consumption of drinking water and including rainfall water, flowing water from the river and others are all judged not to be safe until it is being treated with water treatment plant before you can consume them.
On the question on how safe is the water that we are producing in our factories especially as we have a lot of problem in the state.  You know the government is working hard now to ensure that there is water all over the place.
In the past, the government will release a lot of money just to ensure that this is done especially when the governor came on board but that is not effectively utilized , impact was not felt and the governor himself was no not happy over it and the attitude of also the workforce that are behind held responsible for supplying water not only in Imo Sate, it is a general phenomenon in Water Corporation in Lagos, Abuja and everywhere, it is the same attitude and because of that, huge resources being pushed in by federal and state governments into provision of water seem not to be adequate.  Again, you see that UNICEF, WHO and so many other organizations put in a lot of money into the area of water to make sure that there is adequate supply of water yet you cannot see them because of the handling of these water facilities by those that are supposed to mind them.
Now based on those facts, the government of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the Rescue Mission government now decided to have a radical approach for ensuring the rehabilitation of water facilities within Imo State starting from Otammiri Water Works and this is why the concession of the water works so as to make sure that private individuals come in to run it, re-activate it, to put it in use and to ensure a continuation because in some cases, even if the government spends money to re-activate and rehabilitate, they still need to hand it over to the same people who cannot effectively control it and just give it six months, the whole thing will just go back but this time around, the privates will not only re-habilitate it but they will make sure that effective things are being put in place for so many years so that at the end of the day, the people of Imo State will see water to drink, the flow of the water will be constant, the government will be making money out of it, the concessioner will also be making his money. But here, the workers of Imo State government would be there to make sure that these works are done accordingly. The policy of the government to censor the water, to me, now is in the right direction. We must say thank you to his Excellency for taking the bull by the horn.
Sir before we go into the issue of government policy, as a water engineer, can you tell us the depth people (bore-hole owners) should dig?
It depends on the area you work because you have the structure reports on the areas are not the same. What is obtainable in Owerri is not the same thing in Orlu, Okigwe and the rest of them. Sometimes, if you go just about some meters away, are not the same. Now we have what we call amplify. In the water producing areas we have three amplifies. We call it water bearing formation that provides water. The first is the first surface that is the first water supply which is between 30-40 feet in Owerri. The first water supply is demarcated by clay after that, you get molted clay. This clay will take you another 30 feet making a total of 60 or 70 as the case may be before you hit another amplify which is the second water amplify. That amplify can take you another 100 or 120 feet as the case may be here in Owerri. Then you hit another clay again, a black clay formation. The clay is like a thick wall. If you go again to a certain point maybe 150 feet, before it is exhausted there. This will lead you to the third water supply. Now the most important aspect of it is that the first water supply needs to be blocked because the suck-aways you have penetrates into that first water supply. You block it by what we call cement grouting. So the important thing about water drilling is the design. If you block that first water supply, no surface water or rainfall water can be able to penetrate into the well because this first water supply is being discharged by rainfall because all the rain that is falling touches that first water because if the rain does not sink into the ground, it becomes a flood apart from the one that is pushed away. Now it goes to that first water supply. If the suck-aways are there, that is where it channels into the system, so you have to block it up by cement grouting it and allow your screen to be either placed on the second or third water supply. Maybe by the time you get to the third water supply, you may have some iron content because of mineral contents now because the deeper you go, the more you have more mineral contents. If your second water supply is good enough and can charge enough to give you the production you want, don't worry about that.
Just as you heard them say in the morning today, all you need to do is to sink a bore-hole before you know it nobody is talking about that, nobody is talking about separating the first amplify from the second one and the water is pumping, then you see that it is not clean enough, there are a lot of particles in it. That is one. Now talking about the issue of the production of sachet water and bottled water, we have seen that they have assisted in so many ways in helping to ensure that they provide water to the table and make it hygienic enough for people to take. We ordinarily go to fetch water even if you have from the public tap is safe; your storing facilities in the house can contaminate the water. The water is okay and by the time you store it for your own consumption, it becomes contaminated especially drinking water. Now, that is why it is advisable as you can see bottled water being used everywhere, though it has come to stay. When we come to adjudge to what we consider safest and you buy it with your own money and then you find out that the water is not safe for human consumption, then they have bacteria caused by typhoid and so many diseases and even cancer by water. This is why the government can no longer fold their hands and watch these people produce what is killing our people every day while you go to the hospitals and see a lot of sick people that is being caused by water-borne diseases. Our doctors are smiling, people are dying and the same people who are doing this quack thing are making money. So we have to stop it.
How are you going to stop it?
Just about two days ago, I was able to raise about 60 people from the water corporation in this seminar which have already undergone the day's seminar.
Does it sound like a taskforce or committee?
Yes the committee has gone out. They now go out to have a database for water operators and must also get them ready and at the same time ensure that what they are producing meets with the standard of the water corporation on water treatment.
Give us the laid down standard procedure.
What we expect to have there is the source of water to use and ensure that the bore-hole is produced. Bore-holes should have treatment plan and that treatment plan must have sedimentation tank or aeration tank where the treatment takes place. If we have a lot of iron contents, it is treated there using a dotted line and then by showering since we cannot afford to have a compressor, by showering, it reduces the number or rate of iron in the water. That is what we call aeration. By so doing, we have created aeration where the water iron contents produced will be reduced by 50%. By such act, when going through that sedimentation, those chemicals there that can now treat the water and sediment it to cool. Then you now start the process of filtration. After the aeration and filtration, then the solution we have a cylinder, a filter cylinder base packed with gravel, etc. the second cylinder will go with fine sand then you now add motivated carbon for it to clear the odour. The motivated carbon is coal but when water passes through it, it becomes wider and cleaner, now you add other chemicals that can reduce the high tension of the water and when you finish there going along the pipeline, you introduce chlorine to kill germs after which we can fetch it. At this point, it will be adjusted and very good for human consumption. By so doing you have killed the germs and bacteria in the water and as well removed the iron content to the barest minimum. The water will not be fit to taste until you know the percentage whether it is the allowed percentage for both the iron content and the acidity. You now add sulphate.
The next thing we will look at is the environment, the way we handle the packaging because if you don't have a machine that will bottle your water or package it and you are using your hand to do it, you are also contaminating the water even at the point of packaging after it has been through. So if you look at our idea, our policy will be that if these conditions are not met, then we will help them to meet up such conditions.
How do they do that?
The government can help to package it because we are talking about factory, factory, factory. We don't want to lose that factory but when they register and become part of us, you know they are there, then they can be given loans.
So what you are saying is that every water factory here must register with your water corporation?
Yes because Water Corporation is a regulatory agency. We must know what they are doing about water.
The government will assist them to make sure that they get the proper things that boost their businesses. We are not trying to put them out of business, we will enhance their business but those who are not ready to comply will be shut down.
Sir, the WHO has a target of 2025 for safe and affordable water all over the world and this same people as you said, will they meet that same target and then what is the policy because people now look at the government as calming down to talk about small things because the Water Corporation office at Okigwe road was closed, but now you are telling us that the Water Corporation is alive, so what is the policy of the state government?
The WHO has set a standard where there can be water for all. Now it depends on the policy of every government and the way and manner we are going about it here in this part of the world, I am talking of Nigeria generally. It will take us another 200-250 years to get there. You know they left us behind and asked us to come later. Now the problem is not the policy but the implementation of the policy. Here government comes up with beautiful policies and ideas to form ideas, package it, go on radio everywhere and speak beautiful about it then implementation becomes the problem because the same players that are there and the Nigerian factors and culture will not allow that to grow. Instead of you to bring somebody that is good enough, rather you bring your brother. You want to promote the people you love. You want to do this leaving out people that are qualified. Now the culture will not allow us. This is why there is nothing owned by the government today that works if it is not advertised.
To be continued

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