Water: a crisis in waiting: Lere Amusan provides a Nigerian perspective on the effects of climate change on water supply in littoral states.

AuthorAmusan, Lere

Climate change has many effects on littoral states. There is a crisis in human security because of the declining availability of clean water for domestic and agricultural use. Globalisation and laissez-faire principles impact on the plight of the 'wretched of the earth', who cannot afford to buy multinational companies' bottled water. The interplay between el-Nino and el-Nina brings about either too much or too little water or contaminated dirty water. This sometimes leads to social conflict. The Millennium Development Goals cannot be achieved in such a situation. From a gender perspective, women and girls are disadvantaged by water stress; they end up being reduced to mere hewers of wood and drawers of water.


Climate change is defined as 'a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time period'. (1) The interplay between the Anthropocene and Holocene is pushing the Earth into planetary terra incognita. (2) The impact of this on water availability has attracted the attention of policy-makers, environmentalists and political scientists because of its major environmental implications in the 21st century. (3) The effects of climate change on the supply of water at the global level are reaching a tipping point, with many scholars predicting water wars in several parts of the globe. This is more so when one considers the management of water resources. The shrinkage of many lakes, drying up of many rivers and over-use of groundwater with the extinction of many flora and fauna are sufficient to induce reflection about the distribution of precipitation in space and time. The unevenness of such precipitation causes tremendous variation in water resources, affecting life in arid and wetland areas. This, in turn, has economic, political and socio-cultural impacts.

The rate of evaporation varies a great deal in different parts of Nigeria, depending on temperature and relative humidity, which affects the amount of water available to replenish groundwater supplies. In the northern part of the country, the rate is high, causing crises in agricultural production. In some cases, it leads to skirmishes between crop farmers and pastoralists. The combination of shorter duration but more intense rainfall with increased evapotranspiration and the introduction of the fadama farming programme4 is expected to lead to groundwater depletion.

The increase in the world's population has resulted from relative improvement in health care systems. Urbanisation and industrialisation shift the focus of economies, and people, towards cities. The Nigerian government faces a major crisis in dealing with pressure on the limited supply of water. It must meet both industrial and household needs while setting aside

some water to balance the ecosystems of river deltas. Climate change is heightening the crisis because it is still further reducing the country's water supply. In his bid to meet one of the cardinal points of the Millennium Development Goals, President Goodluck Jonathan stated on 17 January 2011 that:

No Nigeria child should in the next few years trek long distance to carry water on their heads before going to school. Our target is to ensure that by the year 2015, 75% of Nigerians will have access to safe drinking water and that by 2025 the figure will rise to over 90%. (5) [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

According to the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, water scarcity is defined as a per capita supply of less than 1700 cubic metres per year.

Female disadvantage

Because they need to fetch water and look for wood to prepare food for their families, many Nigerian women and girls are not economically productive. Ultimately this denies them a basic education and the ability to make a positive contribution to economic development. This has left them in a downtrodden position in health, employment, political participation apart from education, leaving them poor and subject to violent crime) This scenario is common in both the riverine areas of the Niger Delta and the Sahara...

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