By Fai Cassian Ndi
If water as they say is life, then Nkambe and Ndu towns in Donga Mantung Division of the North West Region of Cameroon may perhaps eventually be lifeless. This is so due to the scarcity of water. It is January, Nkambe and Ndu towns with the fast growing population is again in water crisis. This wobbly situation is having diversified interpretations. Environmentalists are of the opinion that the scarcity of water has been orchestrated by the changing climate while some development experts on the other hand say it is due to the abusive cultivation of eucalyptus trees in and around water catchments. Yet traditionalists on their part are convinced that the gods are angry. It is common to see a traditional ruler pouring libation at a stream calling on the gods to bring back water. The situation is such that taps regularly run dry; some small springs have dried off while others have lost their sizes. Water has been tagged as a rare commodity given that to get water especially at this period of the year is as complicated as a journey to Mars. Access to water is a major predicament and gradually it has reached a crisis level.
In Ndu town, the council has adopted rationing strategies with the Ndu Water Authority to meet up with the pressing water problems. Talking to this reporter, the Mayor of Ndu Council Bunyui Emmanuel Nyugap says apart from the fact that water is now rationed in Ndu town, the council has also embarked on mitigating the crisis to avoid any out break of water borne diseases. The population he said is being sensitized and it is an ongoing process. He also mentioned that the council has also embarked on the eradication of eucalyptus trees in and around water catchments and in the months ahead Ndu council intends to construct an additional water pumping station as an immediate package aimed at providing a temporary solution to the crisis. He also observed that there is an urgent need to empower the rural communities on the sustainable natural resource management.
In Nkambe, the situation is becoming very precarious. Former mayor of Nkambe, Mangoh Jones says from 2010 to 2013, the council eradicated over 20.000 eucalyptus trees in and around and has planted over 32.000 environmental friendly trees at the main water catchmentwith support from the Ministry of Forestry and Faiuna, Mangoh Jones. Nkambe town has three watersheds, but they have been invaded by eucalyptus trees. Mangoh Jones Tanko said that the first water crisis emerged in 1999, when the population of Nkambe town went for almost two months without potable water. “Last year, the council supported the communities of Binju, Ngwanyuh and Mansoh to construct some springs that could serve these quarters during the months of January, February and March but it is pathetic that the springs usually run dry due to severe harshness of the dry season”.He observed that the situation is very critical as families move over 10-20 km everyday to get water. He blamed the population for setting watersheds on fire as well as the abusive planting of eucalyptus trees in and around water catchments. It should be noted that more than 85% of all the water catchments in Donga Mantung and Bui are invaded by eucalyptus trees. Experts say a mature eucalyptus tree consumes a minimum of 400 liters of water per day. Besides, if there are still little drops of water in Nkambe town, it is thanks to Mangoh Jones Tanko the former mayor of Nkambe who took the challenge to launched a fierceless war by replacing eucalyptus in water catchments. Yet, approxiamtely half of the trees planted were all consumed by bushfire this year. To cut the story short, indicators are rife that more than 92% of the watersheds usually get dry during dry season. Some of the streams even dry off completely. It is common to see children digging at the watersheds to find water.
Uncertainty looms large as it is feared that this could lead to an outbreak of cholera or increasing water borne diseases. Of late, it has been observed that the number of typhoid cases in Ndu and Nkambe have increased geometrically. Farmers on the other hand have been complaining that weather patterns have changed and it is resulting to poor crop yields. Yet the same farmers hardly keep to the instructions of avoiding “slatch and burnt” commonly known as “ankara” in their farms. Cattle grazers on the other hand for wanting fresh grass for their cattle have gone on a periodic folly of setting the bushes on fire.