Talking about twenty four hours of regular water supply in most of Buea Municipality can only be in the rainy season when residents take into consideration rain water collected from roof tops.
In Buea just like in many Cameroonian towns and cities water is scarce and sometime even difficult to obtain. Residents have to walk for a very long distance and wait in line before carrying a heavy bucket of the precious liquid back home. Women and children spend hours fetching water for their households, lugging it home in containers, that when full sometimes weigh more than twenty kilograms.
The fact that one is connected to the pipe borne network is no guarantee that one can just turn the faucet and water pours out immediately. Even though water has been described as the liquid gold of the 21st Century, human beings in their different walks of life are squandering it to such a degree that they can barely have anything left for drinking and the different human activities not to talk of pouring into the sea. The issue of 250 persons per stand pipe by 2015 is still to become a reality as far as Buea is concerned.
But for climatic hazards and increase in the town’s population, the water crisis currently encountered by residents is further compounded by the non-chalant and lackluster attitude of the company in charge of water distribution in the municipality- from the former SNEC to the present Camerounaise des Eaux (CDE) that has just inherited all the shortcomings of the former and is doing little or nothing to improve on them. Even the council seems not to be too enthusiastic in the handling of the water issue.
For the time being, rationing is the order of the day. If one is not around when water is released in one’s neighbourhood, then one has to wait for the same time another day or go to another neighbourhood where water can be found. Large containers for storing water is the order of the day.
In fact residents are forced to bear the brunt as they are often seen with large containers in overcrowded stand taps or trekking from one neighbourhood to the other in search of water. Well- to- do persons either use their vehicles or hire cabs putting in large containers going from one neighbourhood to the other in search of water.
At one point in time, the situation became unbearable within the university community forcing students to take to the streets. This was due to the fact that water was not running from their taps.
In spite of all this headache, anyone visiting Buea and going from one neighbourhood to the other will be surprised by the number of leakages found along supply lines. According to the authorities of Camerounaise des Eaux, in order to check water theft by consumers, Meters are installed at strategic points but these strategic points are often several meters away from the consumer’s house or residence.
The consumer bears the brunt in case of any leakage after the Meter. The authorities of Camerounaise des Eaux remain indifferent to such leakages after all the consumer will have to pay as per the quantity of cubic meters of water consumed registered by the Meter. Just like with the private lines, lines under the water corporation suffer the same fate, theirs is even worse. These leakages greatly affect the pressure and supply of water to households. Even with the increase in the population, can one really say that the quantity of water leaving the reservoirs to consumers really gets to the number of persons intended to with all these leakages?
The constant cry is that the pipes were planted many years ago and need to be replaced. When confronted on the state of affairs, authorities often complain of lack of equipment.
That Douala is yet to send equipment. This gives the impression that the corporation does not have a maintenance service or if it exists then it is just there to serve as window dressing. Even those who want to install water into their homes have to wait for months with their money already paid for their installation to be put in place.
The controversy about the whole issue is the fact that residents are always trooping into the Water Corporation Office to settle their bills for fear of being victims of the corporation’s sledge hammer if they do not respect the deadline for the payment of bills. It is said that he who goes for equity goes with clean hands. Can the authorities of Camerounaise des Eaux really talk of doing justice to their customers? What about those who do not have water for very long periods but are forced to pay bills? What about those whose Meters’ screens have been blurred by dirt making it difficult to see the figures?
Why must the corporation ask customers to pay their bills first before complaining even though they know that their system is suffering from maintenance crisis and sometimes Meters are not even read? How just is the corporation when its workers fail to signal leakages along supply lines to individual Meters after several months? Why are the workers and authorities of Camerounaise des Eaux generally so indifferent to the plight of their customers? Uncertainty looms in the air since customers are generally of the opinion that they are often forced to pay for what they are not sure of consuming. The day the floodgates will be open not even the workers will be spared.
The truth is that there is a lot of mixed feelings about the services offered by Camerounaise des Eaux. The earlier they sit up the better. Generally speaking Buea is one of those few towns where people see water and let it flow away without doing anything to preserve it.
In the month of December 2009, the water corporation was carrying out some maintenance work along its supply lines. Were those signs of saying that leakages will be a thing of the past?
How can the story be true when most of the areas where maintenance was carried out saw water oozing out of the pipes before the technicians could settle down in their office. The long and short of the story for now is that leakages have come to stay unless consumers and customers pressurize the CDE authorities to put an end to the leakages in the municipality.