Glass Half Full

STORY OF Fatima Ladi Abdullahi
WRITTEN BY Wahyu Wijayanto Sunaryo

Zaria is the main city in Kaduna State, Nigeria, with a population of 714,000, but most people here have never had a reliable water supply system, which is critical to support their daily lives. The water supply system in Zaria was originally constructed in 1939, then expanded in 1975. Since then no significant investment has been made to rehabilitate it. In 2012, the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) joined forces to support the government in rebuilding the water infrastructure system. Communication, collaboration and the commitment of stakeholders proved key to successfully completing a water supply expansion program that will meet Zaria’s water demand for at least the next 15 years.

I grew up in Sabon Gari, Zaria, Kaduna State. Ours was an average family since my father was a retired soldier. His pension was nothing to write home about and that was his only means of income. To support him, my mother carried out petty trading to supplement his income. Due to our scarce resources, only my two brothers could further their education.

I was asked to marry, since, as a girl, my parents believed it was not necessary for me to go further than secondary school. But I stood my ground and, as a result, my mother had to pay for my school fees for me to attain my Diploma in Law.

We had access to water while growing up, and I used to be the one assigned to go and pay the water bill. Life was easier then, until sometime in the 1990s, when water became scarce and we had to go to the stream to fetch it as the wells had started drying up.

The river was far from our house and we had to go four or five times a day to fetch enough water to sustain us through the day. People in our neighborhood would praise me since I was a university student and it was rare to see girls at that time attending university, especially from a Hausa suburb, where it was generally believed that the place of a girl was in her husband’s home.

The water sector in Zaria began to face many challenges. Climate change contributed a lot towards water scarcity since most of the hand-dug wells had dried up. I became involved with the Zaria Water Supply Project when I was appointed the legal advisor of Kaduna State Water Corporation in 2019.

"IsDB and the African Development Bank (AfDB) joined forces to support the government in rebuilding the water infrastructure system."

There were many challenges involved, especially for low-income beneficiaries, as they didn’t have much knowledge about how to connect the water to their homes. I advised that in such cases, the Water Corporation should complete the connection itself and input the cost into the bills of the customers, which made it easier.

Low-income beneficiaries no longer need to trek long distances to fetch water from the river. Nor do they have to buy water from vendors, whose sources they are unsure of. Waterborne diseases have completely disappeared from the community. Local women who do businesses of Zobo and Kunun Zaki (local drinks) now do it with ease as they are sure of the safe source of the water included in the drinks.

Zaria is the main city in Kaduna State, Nigeria, with a population of 714,000. The city is the center of the textile industry and home to Ahmadu Bello University, the largest university in Nigeria. Despite the city’s importance, most people in Zaria have never had a reliable water supply system. This is critical to support their daily lives. 

The water supply system in Zaria was originally constructed in 1939, then expanded in 1975. Since then no significant investment has been made to rehabilitate it. Thus, the system has been characterized by limited network coverage, broken pipes, an inefficient treatment system and poorly maintained infrastructure causing significant losses of already scarce water from the network. Because of this, people have relied on traditional hand-dug wells and sachet water for their daily needs. 

In response, in 2012, IsDB and the African Development Bank (AfDB) joined forces to support the government in rebuilding the water infrastructure system. The aim was to fulfill the water demand of the people of Zaria and surrounding villages sufficiently and safely, through the Zaria Water Supply Expansion Project. 

Building the water infrastructure was a collaborative effort. It involved the construction of a multi-purpose dam by the Federal Government of Nigeria; a water treatment plant funded by the Kaduna State Government; and 73 km of transmission pipes, pump stations and 10 bulk water reservoirs, with a total capacity of 39,600 m3, financed by IsDB (USD 81 million). It also included the installation of 350 km of water distribution pipes, house connections and sanitation facilities in public areas financed by AfDB. 

This massive water infrastructure development successfully attracted various investors and development partners and mobilized a total investment of USD 437 million. However, the project also encountered unique challenges in terms of project management and coordination. For instance, transmission mains, bulk water reservoirs and pump stations, financed by IsDB, were all installed in the middle stream of the water system. Thus, synchronizing the pace of construction with components implemented by other financiers was very challenging. It also carried the risk of a mismatch in design and composition that could affect the sustainable delivery of water into the network. 

Therefore, immediately after the confirmation of IsDB’s financing in 2014, the design and construction of the four major contracts being funded by the Bank were tightly coordinated with other stakeholders’ technical teams. The implementation was set at full speed to align progress with other critically interlinked components. Despite this, the project was often impeded by critical issues, such as difficulties in acquiring private land for the pipes and reservoirs, as well as continuing structural reforms within the executing agency. 

Realizing that the staff capacity, authority and continuity of services provided by the project management unit (PMU) were fundamentally important, IsDB’s project team emphasized close coordination between the PMU and local governments at the heart of management support for the Zaria project. Moreover, fluid communication and collaboration with the supervision consultant, AfDB’s project team and officials from Kaduna State Government have become the building blocks for strong project management support. As a result, when issues emerged in the field, they were fixed quickly with appropriate support from the Bank. 

Despite its complexities, the Zaria Water Supply Expansion Project was successfully completed in 2018, less than four years after its initial implementation – a remarkable achievement. The resulting water system will provide for the region’s needs until the project horizon of 2035. This means that more than 960,000 people in Zaria and the surrounding villages are benefiting from the continuous supply of potable water through connections directly to their houses. In addition, trained staff of the Kaduna State Water Board constantly monitor the water system to ensure a good level of quality and service delivery. 

The uninterrupted supply of potable water also benefits the economy in the region, especially for the 64% of the population still living below the poverty line. In this regard, the region’s water tariff is based on the consumption rate of households, with subsidies provided for the lower income segment, thereby safeguarding social justice in the community. In addition, the previous costs of drawing water can now be invested in good-quality education and better health services. 

Two-way communication, collaboration among stakeholders and commitment were critical success factors in the management of the Zaria Water Supply Expansion Project. These ‘3Cs’ of the multi-stakeholder management approach, combined with compassionate support from IsDB, reflecting Islamic values, are the ingredients of the success of the development project. 

In August 2019, the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, inaugurated the commissioning of the Zaria Water Supply Expansion Project, marking the end of 40 years of water scarcity in Zaria.