The mile 18 water catchment in Buea, which has over the years been the ‘Oasis’ of the people of the Wonia Mavio, Bomaka and Molyko communities in Buea , especially during the dry season when water supply is epileptic, has been bitten so painfully that it is crying out for help!
The eastern flank of the catchment was bitten a few years ago by a magnificent structure. This vexed the neighbouring communities who saw it as a deliberate or rather ignorant attempt to deprive them of their God given source of potable water. They however grumbled and stayed!
In a bid to heal the wounds inflicted upon this ‘source of life’, the ERuDeF Institute of Biodiversity and Non-Profit, in collaboration with the local communities and the Southwest Regional Delegation of Environment, Protection of Nature and Sustainable Development planted some 450 trees around the water catchment.
Few months after, the watershed once again received another bite at its southern flank; the trees planted at the catchment were destroyed and a parking lodge is being constructed for a nearby hotel, also under construction.
This action has harvested lots of verbal petitions from community members with most of their fingers pointing at the Chief of Wonia Mavio Mile 18.
“People can really be heartless. This water is what God has given to all of us and we all are drinking from it. Why should somebody build on it knowing very well that it can pollute the water? I learnt that the Chief sold the place to this man, who has this hotel for the construction of a parking lodge and to plant flower trees. Is this not being wicked to the community? The Bible says “do unto others what you will want them do unto yo”. This man has drilled water for his hotel and wants to destroy our source of water…God is watching!” said Ms. Tata Priscilla, a mile 18 resident.
A Malingo based business man, Enow Stanely, met at the watershed said the volume of the water is gradually reducing with increase in human activities and development.
“When I just came to Buea some 10 years ago, this water was flowing with much pressure even in the dry season but look at what is happening now, all round the catchment you have houses, the flow has reduced and the water may even be contaminated; who knows?” He lamented.
Meanwhile some community members are already sceptical about the quality of the water from the catchment
“I use to drink from this catchment before, but recently realised that the rate at which I suffer from typhoid is more than it were before. So when I carry water form this catchment, I ensure that it is boiled before drinking” a store keeper besides the catchment, who preferred to be known simply as David, explained.
Reacting to allegations from his community members, the Chief of Wonia Mavio Mile 18 said the water catchment area was already sold to the occupants before he became chief.
“How can I sell a water catchment? Is it proper? The truth is that people must speak. My predecessor sold all these lands before I became chief; even where my house is, I bought it…..so I don’t know who authorised them to build there.” the Chief said.
The Chief explained that a man building a hotel nearby asked for permission to plant trees around the catchment to beautify the area and not to construct a parking lodge. He said it was okay by him if the government takes any legal action against those constructing around this water source
“If the government can assist in evicting those people constructing around the water catchment, I will be happy. I can’t go fighting those who have constructed on the water catchment; they will be taking me to court up and down which I don’t want” the Chief quipped.
The Southwest Regional Delegate of MINEPDED, Mr. Set Ekwadi, on his part said article 4 and 16 of the 1988 law managing water resources in Cameroon forbids any construction around the water catchment. This according to him inhibits infiltration, contaminates the catchment and reduces flow rate.
“Water is the second important think in the life of man after air. Those who are building around the water catchment, do you mean to tell me that they are not conscious of the important of water in their life? Of course they know! You cannot see a water catchment and go and construct there because you are waiting on the Delegate of Environment to come and fight you or to come and question you. It’s a general concern. So we are calling on you people of the press to help us sensitize this people to protect their environment” the Delegate said.
He disclosed that a report was submitted about the plight of the catchment to the Ministry of Environment, Protect of Nature and Sustainable Development and the Minister, last August, 2016, instructed the Governor to follow up the issue to ensure that all construction work around the water catchment is stopped.
By Bertrand Shancho Ndimuh