- The oil from the car does not only endanger the human health but also the fish species
- The 2009/2010 statistics from Arua Regional Referral hospital indicates that over 26,489 females and 16,163 males above five years suffered from intestinal worms
- While 529 females and 1,027 males suffered from Typhoid fever as a result of drinking contaminated water
- In 2015/16, there were about 35 cases of various cancer infections that were recorded across the district. Most of them have been referred to the Cancer Institute for further management.
By Warom Felix
Arua. As one approaches River Enyau on Pajulu, Ediofe and Onduparaka roads, one gets frightened by the number of cars being washed directly into the river.
This, has for decades been the practice by car washers especially on River Enyau, that largely supplies Arua town and all parts of the lower belt of Terego until it runs into River Ora. Those on the lower belt, like Grace Yiacia says she does not boil the water especially for drinking. But sometimes she boils when she cites some elements of oil on the water.
“It is only when I get suspicious that the water is contaminated with some oil on top that is when I boil. But for several years we have been drinking this water and sometimes you find children having rushes on their bodies or have abdominal pains. But I do not mind so much of what could be the cause,” she said.
In 1990s, locals used to fish from River Enyau, but this is no more. The fish have been suffocated. The River that used not to dry is now prone to the effects of dry seasons, hence causing water shortage in the town.
Residents of Pajulu fetch water at the Enyau river that is endangered. Photo by Warom Felix
Although most youths look at Car washing as a source of employment and income, they disobey the law on protection of the environment. The car washers are not ready to adapt to the development where NEMA project of Shs 110 million on Ediofe road has stalled for about seven years now.
The project that was funded by National Environment Management Authority was meant to protect encroachment on River Enyau and protecting marine life. At the initiation of the project, Nema provided Shs 16 million which is inadequate for the project.
For several decades, car washers have been conducting the activity directly into the river which is used for both drinking and commercial purpose. The river is also a major source of supply by National Water and Sewerage Corporation to the Municipality.
The Arua Municipal Health Officer, Dr Paul Onzubo, said: “Many lubricants for vehicles or motorcycles have a number metals in them which enters into the nerves and the first effect is that it causes cancer and liver complications because the liver fails to filter them away. And we have always been asking for enforcement of the laws to have those boys move out of washing vehicles directly into Enyau yet the danger is high. We have time immemorial been asking the boys to move out of Enyau to save people’s lives but this had failed.”
Dr Paul Onzubo, the Municipal Health Officer who says the car washers should move out of R. Enyau. Photo by Felix
Dr Onzubo said besides cancer, there are high cases of bilharzia infections especially in Ozua cell in Oli division where there is concentrated contamination of water.
Monthly, there over 800 cases of bilharzia and water borne related diseases are recorded in Oli Health Center IV alone.
The 2010 statistics from Arua Regional Referral hospital indicates that there, were 20 cases of prostate cancer, 05 digestive tract cancer, 12 of breast cancer, 14 of hyposis cycoma, one of lung cancer and two of cancer of the liver.
Recently, the Chairperson for the Enyau Boys Car Washers Association, David Aswa, said that: “We really want this project to take off but it has delayed for long. And we are not allowed to wash cars directly into the river as the water gets contaminated for people to use,” he said.
Another resident of Otumbari village, Mary Anguko, said: “Sometimes you see oil substance on the water and use it like that even for drinking. The water officers should act on these people who wash vehicles and motorcycles in the water because even here it is a common practice. Not many people boil water before drinking because they say it is expensive in terms of charcoal.”
The washing bay is supposed to have concrete slab, soak away pit for sieving oil and administrative office. Currently there is only a latrine that has been constructed with an incomplete slab.
A resident of Terego demonstrate the water quality in a basin. Photo by Warom Felix
The District Water Engineer, Eng William Tiyo, said: “We have always been striving to provide clean and safe water for people but the car washing in river Enyau frustrates these efforts. We spend about 70 per cent of the government funds for supply of water but we need to have clean and safe water right from the source to the containers used at homes.”
The Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, Martin Andua said: “By washing vehicles directly into the river, you are endangering the health of thousands of people who drink it without boiling. Drinking water contaminated by grease or oil from these cars is ideally not good and this impunity being done by the car washers should be stopped.”
Although National water may be providing clean water for some urban dwellers, the rural communities remain at risk. Andua added: “It is unfortunate that there is a belief that water is always clean yet people slowly get weakened from intestinal infections which then reduces the labour force. So the laws should be applied in order to save the lives of water users of River Enyau or any other water source within the district.”
Statistics from NWSC indicates that the customer base has grown from about 5, 472 customers in June 2013 to the current 5,954 by end of 2015 connected for water.
The continued contamination of the water compromises the efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal number 6 which advocates for ensuring universal access to safe and affordable drinking water by 2030.