Protests and anger over lack of water in Abidjan

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A third of Abidjan’s inhabitants have had no drinking water for over a month and many have taken to the streets to vent their anger.

“Each time we launch an appeal to the authorities for help there is no action,” local resident Georgette Akissi 38, who has been on the search for water for three days, told IRIN.

Some inhabitants have been forced to walk up to 6 km every day to find water, Akissi said, while others are resorting to deepening their boreholes in their backyards.

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s largest city, requires some 500,000 cu.m of water a day but only 350,000 cu.m is available. That has meant that 300,000 people have no water from the city’s central supply, Ebah Basile, executive director of the water company Society of Water Distribution in Cote d’Ivoire (SODECI) told IRIN.

Women took to the streets on 20 February to protest the lack of water, putting up barricades on the main road leading to the east of the city. Police used tear gas to disperse them.

“We want water now,” proclaimed Mahoua Toure, one of the demonstrators. “We have the right to a minimum of respect.”

SODECI and the Ministry of Infrastructure have responded by delivering daily emergency water supplies in trucks but many residents complained to IRIN that the response has been mismanaged and most families still have next to no water.

Basile said he is worried that the city water supply is near breaking point. “Today 77 water pumps are working 24 hours a day [to provide water] in Abidjan. If one of these pumps breaks, the gap in water will just get worse,” he said.

Money on water infrastructure unspent

Bandama Kouadio, deputy director of the infrastructure ministry admitted that the state has not done enough to improve the city’s water infrastructure, despite a US $4.5 million investment programme that was supposed to have been put in place in 1980.

He said political instability in the country contributed to delays. It also led to burdens on the Abidjan’s water supply with some 1.5 million people fleeing there from the north, increasing the population by more than two thirds.

Kouadia told IRIN the government is currently developing a strategy to try to improve the water system. “The state will play its part with the financial support of international partners,” Kouadio told IRIN.

In late 2007, donors provided $15.8 million to the government

But citizens say they are fed up with excuses.”[The government] should have thought more [about] the growth of the population and taken steps to avoid such a situation before we reached a crisis,” said Flavien Tapé, a resident of eastern Abidjan.

“Instead, we are forced to consume water of poor quality and nobody is worried about it,” he said. Irin

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