CEBU

Nalzaro: ‘Life and death’ for water

Saksi

AS IF my heart was crushed into pieces watching the “Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho” show over GMA 7 last Sunday night, which featured the very touching story of a 75-year-old woman from Sitio Calibasan, Barangay Capt. Claudio, a mountain barangay in Toledo City, Cebu, who has to walk dangerously several kilometers just to fetch potable water every day. Nanay Matilde (her surname was not mentioned) lives in her small nipa hut accompanied only by her two pet dogs, “Kabang and Diana.” Still single, Nanay Tilde lives alone as she has no surviving relative to take care of her. She survived through donations from her generous neighbors and by raising pigs.

Nanay Tilde with her two canes and with a “bukag” (bamboo suitcase) where carried like a back pack containing two small plastic gallons weighing 12 kgs., has to walk for an hour on rugged and rough terrain to fetch drinking water in a small well. The narrow, slippery and rough path was very dangerous. One false move would mean death. At her condition, it is also feared that anytime she may collapse or slip and fall into the ravine. That is a daily struggle she has to face. It’s a no choice situation for Nanay Tilde—death without water or possible death for dangerously trekking.

Despite her age she can still manage to walk up and down the hills for several kilometers. I am still 58 years old, but I can no longer do what she does. That’s her usual routine to survive due to scarcity of water in her place. This is also the predicament of her neighbors. Residents can only generate water through rainwater from their roofs and stock it in gallons and drums. But if there is no rain, like nowadays, because it is summer time, they have to fetch water from a faraway source. Nanay Tilde has to stock the water in her old “banga” (a big jar made of clay) for her daily consumption. With scarcity of water supply, I don’t know how often she would take a bath.

At her age, we can presume that she is suffering from various illnesses, body pains included. But she neither complained nor consulted a doctor. Nobody is taking care of her, so she has do it for herself to survive. There are male residents in the area who are willing to fetch water for the other residents, but they would charge P30 per gallon and Nanay Tilde couldn’t pay for volunteers as she has no legitimate source of income.

Nanay Tilde expressed frustrations at some politicians in their local government unit (LGU) because these politicians always promised them during election time that they will be provided with potable water supply. But until now that promise has never materialized. Maybe she will hear that promise again this coming elections.

When the “Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho” production crew got the reaction of Toledo City officials, the LGU sent a team of engineers to the area for inspection. According to the engineers, there is a possible source of water in the area, but it needs an estimated P5 to 10 million in funding for the laying of pipes and electricity to boost the water supply from the source to the uphill areas so the residents can benefit from it. Does the Toledo City Government have no budget for this project? Water is a basic need.

Can we ask support from Gov. Gwen Garcia or maybe 3rd District Rep. Pablo John Garcia to help finance this project? I don’t know how many residents in the mountainous areas here in Cebu province are deprived of the basic need to have access to potable drinking water? Can the LGUs, waterworks cooperatives and the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) help finance water projects?

We have problems of water supply in the urban areas where we have water utilities. How much more in the far-flung areas such as Nanay Tilde’s place? Globally, the securing of an adequate water supply has become the most critical problem facing communities today. Fresh water, needed by human beings to sustain life, health and production activities, constitutes only .8 percent of the world’s total water supply, and it is not known just what portion of this amount is contaminated. Lack of water and the ensuing poor sanitation are responsible for disability, disease and death especially among infants and children.

Water is more than just a simple mixture of hydrogen and oxygen molecules. It is the source of all life. Human beings can go on for days, even weeks, without food but can die in a matter of days without water. According to the United Nations, there are still 663 million people around the world that don’t have access to clean drinking water. When people especially children have access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, they lead healthier and more successful lives.

Water shortage may be caused by climate change, such as altered weather patterns including droughts or floods, increased pollution and increased human demand and overuse of water. Water scarcity is being driven by two converging phenomena: growing fresh water use and depletion of usable freshwater resources.


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