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Now that the 2023 world water day has come and gone, what next?

  • Now that the 2023 world water day has come and gone, what next?

Following last year’s world water day, which focused on groundwater, the Lagos State Water Regulatory Commission (LASWARCO) stepped up its activities on the regulation of water and wastewater service providers. This, along with multiple stakeholder engagements, brought to the fore the government’s intentions to improve the WASH status of the state. To be frank, this was encouraging to the extent that other states in the country sent representatives to observe and replicate the activities of the commission in their states. The degree to which this has positively impacted the sector in Lagos state is another matter entirely.

For the 2023 world water day focused on accelerating change to deliver goal 6 of the sustainable development goals, it is intriguing to see what the response will be from the government. As goal 6 of the SDGs seeks to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030, Lagos State is still a way off from achieving this with over 60% of the population without access to clean and safe water according to officials. When you consider this in the context of a population size of more than 20 million, the task is considerable and near a borderline crisis point. For the state that generated a revenue of over ₦753 billion last year, its residents are calling for a timely and focused effort to address this issue.

However, expecting to achieve the SDG 6 targets with the state government’s effort alone is a pipe dream at best. Several infrastructure developments in the state recently were done with input from the private sector and the trend is still ongoing. However, caution must be exercised concerning the extent of private involvement. Handing over the task to the private sector alone will lead to a focus on obtaining profit rather than delivering water supply to the masses. The UK’s water supply sector is a prime example of such challenges faced by a fully privatized sector.

Considering that the production and supply of water at the quality standard are not cheap to operate and maintain, it will be ideal to create a scenario where the government and private sector work to deliver the SDG 6 targets. It can be stated that meeting the demand of the underserved and unserved population will require both public and private input to accelerate meeting the targets.

Although the state government has begun engaging with the private sector over the years with forums such as the Lagos International Water Conference, more can still be done to hit indicator milestones. Any outcome from the state and private sector collaboration will need true engagement with communities and relevant stakeholders to help increase the chances of success. This can be in the form of championing the benefits of the collaboration to the community, education on water management, and safe water use.

Another critical aspect of the success of public-private collaborations is the degree to which data is used to devise solutions for delivering water to the populace of Lagos state. From mapping the quality of water sources across the state, changes in the characteristics of those sources throughout the year, and typical behavior of water end-users; data from these will positively impact future collaborations in achieving the SDG 6 targets.

These are some suggestions on the direction the Lagos state government can take to accelerate change in delivering safe water to the populace. Ultimately, it boils down to the will of the government to drive and foster such change. As a great example, the USA and UK have recently made considerable commitments to accelerate change in their water supply sector. It is time our government, especially in Lagos, take their stand.

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