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The Role Of Citizen Education For Effective Community Participation In Water Governance In Ssa: A Case Study

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Obinna Uguru (Glasgow, UK), Anita Meldrum
Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotalnd1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 14: Valuing water: monetary and non-monetary dimensions,
AbstractIntroduction This absence of enabling environment and appropriate institutional framework for effective stakeholders' participation in water governance has limited the potential of what could have been achieved in the sector during the last decade of the MDG target for the sector. The (GWP, 2000) noted that the primary challenge of water access issues in the world's developing regions has been that of crisis of governance of the sector. Although government at all levels in the region have important role in realising the important the sector's objectives being universal coverage of access improved water sources and sanitation, it cannot be achieved without good water governance framework that allows for effective participation of local communities and other stakeholders (Medalye & Kundell, 2008; Solanes & Jouravlev, 2006). However, the effectiveness and perhaps willingness of stakeholders in communities to engage could depend on communities for instance, possessing relevant awareness of the cross-cutting issues and capacity, for the process to be meaningful and productive. As it has been observed that the main issue is not only that there as been failures in specific institutions with mandate for water in any given country in the region, but also that the context in which water resources management is placed need an urgent rethink in light of the MDGs and post 2015 development agenda for water in the region (Medalye & Kundell, 2008; WGF, 2014). The objective of this study was to investigate the level of citizens' awareness of the relevance of access to improved drinking water sources to public health with the view to identifying to what extent community participation in water governance is influenced by citizens' capacity and awareness of relevant information. Methods/Materials The method used in this study are documentary review and focus group study carried out in Urban Abakaliki City, South Eastern Nigeria. The focus group involved policy makers, such as senior public officials (both elected and bureaucrats), municipal water supply agency officials and other stakeholders (e.g., the public and private sector operatives in the sector), all with influences or affected by water governance in the city. In total, 10 focus group sessions were held. Results and Discussion Findings from the study showed citizens' awareness of water -- public health linkages had significant influences on their attitudes to participation in water governance. Furthermore, such awareness seemed to have had significant influence in behaviour and attitudes or willingness to adapt to behaviour and attitudes helpful for better environmental and water resource management. The study also showed why it is crucial for communities to be empowered through water related health promotion so they could become active players in the sector. As one of the participants noted: Although, it is [people's] responsibility to know the value of water, [it may not always happen] unless they are educated [about the issues] Thus, knowing what works and how to access intervention resources is crucial to bridging theoretical knowledge and practical action that can make a difference in the community. To realise citizen's hitherto untapped potential for contribution to progress in the sector would require that stakeholders understand the nature of the challenge, their options and responsibilities for improvement. For instance, many of the participants noted that they would like to do things differently, but had limited options due to lack of knowledge on what the problems are and the nature and scope of potential solutions in the sector. For example, there was a general perception among some segment of the community that water source is safe if it satisfied the sensory test. That is, they assume a water source to safe if it is colourless, odourless and tasteless. However, what is known about the state of the environment due to the absence or lack of adequate sanitation facility in Urban Nigeria (JMP, 2012, 2014), water that meet the sensory perception test, may still be unsafe for human consumption due to presence of micro and other chemical substances (Lautenschlager, Boon, Wang, Egli, & Hammes, 2010). In a context of low or no water related awareness and unscientific beliefs about water and health (Akpabio, 2008; 2011) creating water related public awareness is indispensable. It would help build needed capacity and allow citizens in any given community to better appreciate the fundamental relevance improved water access the practice of proper sanitation and hygiene to their health as well as the need to protect the environment. Conclusion In conclusion, study has shown that prioritising citizens' awareness of the various cross cutting issues with regards to access to water, sanitation and hygiene is critical for ensuring full mobilisation of stakeholders in the communities for improved water governance. This is crucial if the post MDG (2015) developmental agenda for water in countries like Nigeria is to be any better than the current MDG goals for water and sanitation fared in the country. The citizens in this communities have probably never been accorded their due place and influence in water governance and there is no evidence that they currently do have real influence in the sector. Furthermore, the fact that there are not public agitation of citizens asking the opportunity to be heard could not and should not be taken to mean that citizens are not interested in having some influence in the sector, so critical for their quality of life. As the findings in this community show, it could be that they are not even aware or properly informed of the relevant issues to appreciate why they should participate and how that may be productive. For instance if citizens cannot access basic information on water quantity and quality, it seriously inhibits their ability to make meaningful input in the debate or hold relevant institutions or agencies of government democratically accountable. 1. Akpabio, E. M. (2008). "Water is God’s": commonality View and the Challenges of State Institutions in Nigeria. Monpelier, France: XIIIth World Water Congress. 2. Akpabio, E. M. (2011). Water and People: Perception and Management Practices in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Society & Natural Resources, 24(6), 584. 3. GWP. (2000). Towards Water Security : A Framework for Action Foreword by Ismail Serageldin. Retrieved from http://www.gwp.org/Global/ToolBox/References/Towards water security. A framework for action. Mobilising political will to act (GWP, 2000).pdf 4. JMP. (2012). Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation 2012 Update: Global D inking Water Trends1990-2010. United States of America: UNICEF and World Health Organisation Joint Monitoring Programme. 5. JMP. (2014). Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation 2014 (No. WA670). Switserland. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/112727/1/9789241507240_eng.pdf?ua=1 6. Lautenschlager, K., Boon, N., Wang, Y., Egli, T., & Hammes, F. (2010). Overnight stagnation of drinking water in household taps induces microbial growth and changes in community composition. Water Research, 44(17), 4868–77. doi:10.1016/j.watres.2010.07.032 7. Medalye, J., & Kundell, J. (2008). Water governance. In The Encylopedia of Earth. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/156918/ 8. Solanes, M., & Jouravlev, A. (2006). Water governance for development and sustainability. United Nations Publications. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=6KYCIVUNIy0C&oi=fnd&pg=PA5&dq=Water+Governance+for+Development+and+Sustainability&ots=tkvy_6sjH-&sig=6RvIx1JtjY8iy1woUahbNwFkJho 9. WGF. (2014). Why is water governance important ? Retrieved from http://www.watergovernance.org/sa/node.asp?node=850
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