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Cameroon: The hunt for drinking water in Douala

Like many Douala resident, computer scientist Cédric gets his water supply at the at the Guinness brewery in Bassa, in Douala, Cameroon.   -  
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For some residents of Cameroon’s economic capital it is a routine to get up early and queue outside a brewery to fill their bottles with water.

The public water utility Camwater is not reliable which makes the business of drilling for water a lucrative one. It is good deal for private contractors and the only option for many residents.

"Drinking water sources are extremely rare, it is so rare and not very visible and few neighborhoods have them," Cédric a computer scientist deplores.

"So, when there is a point like this, everyone rushes. You could already see how difficult it is for people to get it from here. It’s a struggle, the struggle is real. it’s not easy at all. Accessing drinking water in the city of Douala is like a treasure."

If the government says that Camwater supplies most of housewolds, it is clear that many the demand actually exceeds the supply. In addition to a lack of infrastructure, teh city of Douala continues to spread, worsening the problem of the access to drinking water.

Lack of infrastructure and growing population

"We live in peripheral neighbourhoods and the water is not safe for drinking there,  Jodelle, a housewife says. "

So we'd rather travel to get drinking water here. Access to drinking water is still a problem in our country."

Private contractors have launched many project for those who can pay. Indeed, drilling cost over 25 times the minimum wage. In the PK12 district near Douala, technicians are busy drilling in search of groundwater.

"Geophysical studies direct the way we select the sites," Tindo Kaze says.

"We did geophysical studies here, and we were shown a source, we were told a point where we had to drill, that’s where we positioned the machin. They told us we could find groundwater about 50 to 70 meters deep, so that’s what we’re going for."

Authorities have however warned: drilling works that are not made at the required depths or that have possible points of contamination around present health risks.

President Paul Biya might have got the measure of the issue: in his New Year's address, he "asked the government" to launch urgently, "starting from 2023", a "mega-project of drinking water supply" in Douala and its surroundings.

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