“In the cities, women carry water containers on their heads like they did when we lived in villages!”
In some neighbourhoods, power outages lead to these situations. However, in other neighbourhoods like Mpissa and Bacongo, this is our daily life. First of all, the National Water Distribution Company [known as SNDE, it is in charge of the production, distribution, storage, and marketing of drinking water in Congo] is an old company that has barely modernised its equipment since it was created. Most of its equipment dates back to pre-independence days [some equipment dates back to 1954]. So the water supply has a hard time even reaching areas that are supposed to be part of the SNDE's coverage. It's often yellow, in part due to dirty pipes. [SNDE officers state that the water is regularly treated, but that its quality may deteriorate because of the pipe network’s shortcomings]. Many areas are outside the SNDE’s coverage area, mainly because the infrastructure hasn't been able to keep up with the city's rapidly expanding population.“SNDE never fails to send its bills”The authorities have made some efforts to improve the situation. For example, a second water treatment plant was built in Djiri [Djiri II, located north of Brazzaville, will be operational in 2014. According to the government, this plant will provide roughly 80% of the city’s clean drinking water. The rest will be supplied by the renovated Djoué factory, which was built in the 1950s]. However, given the sheer scale of the problem, we are taking this information with a grain of salt.
The short-term solution for now is to get water from private vendors who have the means to build wells. Sellers will buy 25 litre water containers for 50 CFA francs [0.08 euros] and carry them to residences to sell at 100 CFA francs [0.16 euros]. It’s very profitable. The daughter of a politician has even gone into this business in my neighbourhood. The problem is that this water isn’t even drinkable. To find water safe for drinking, it’s another story altogether. For that, we need to go to neighbourhoods that have water towers.In Mpissa, we’ve gone through two-year periods without any running water. This year, we had some running water during the rainy season, but it’s been dry since October. And the worst is that SNDE never fails to send us a bill.And yet the Congo is blessed. Unlike the Sahel countries, water here is plentiful, but it's just not in the taps. In the cities, women are carrying water containers on their heads like they did when we lived in villages. Is that what they call development?