Today the Interweb Gods have deemed is World Blog about water day. Or likely more accurately, the brilliant change.org marketers have deemed today as world blog about water:Day. I haven’t read every post I have seen come across my various Twitter wires, but the ones I’ve read talk about the need for us to have water. Seems pretty self-evident and so the rhetoric can turn into a polemic rather quickly. I thought about writing a love post to water, but then I realized that I’m annoyed at water. We fell out with each other a couple of weeks ago, which by the way was the last time water came through my pipes.
The water system in Hargeisa is over stretched, under maintained, now badly managed network, under funded cluster of an organization. It makes money so the government doesn’t want to privatize it. And that is likely the right move considering the power system is privatized and is a mess. It is all the rage to claim that the private sector is going to save Africa, and I while I believe that I’m not a complete free marketer. The private sector can be just as lazy and dumb as a public sector can be. The presence of competition does not necessitate innovation and good economic behavior in and of itself. But that is a different story and before I go down that road, let me tell you about my pipe problem.
The pipes that supply Hargeisa were buried about an 1 deep all willy nilly throughout the place. Whenever you go off of the main roads it is inevitable that you’ll have to drive over one. That isn’t a structural economic problem. That has little to do with Ministerial efficiency or World Bank proclamations. It is just stupid and lazy workmanship. It doesn’t have anything to do with a depressed education system or beleaguered healthcare system. it is just stupid and lazy workmanship. Nothing more, nothing less.
And because these pipes were not buried deep enough, and because I live near a bus station, the pipes that come to my house often are broken by buses running over them. And then we have to pay for a plumber to come fix them. The Water Agency this time even refused to drive a plumber up here even after we agreed to pay for the plumber. And then after we brought the plumber up here to our sector of Hargeisa, the guy wanted $20, TWENTY DOLLARS, to do the fifteen minutes of work it would require to cut a new pipe, tap it, and tighten it onto the new pipe.
I told the guy to f-off. He laughed, I rolled my eyes, he said ten, I agreed. And then he fixed the pipe. But since that time no water has come through the pipes. I don’t think they’re broken as we can usually tell. In the morning when we drive to work if the water has come and the pipe is broken it just pools uselessly in the muck at the main intersection of the bus station. In a desert country with small water resources no one seems to give an F about this water just sitting there. But that hasn’t happened in the past week or ten days since we paid the plumber to fix the water.
Why is that the case? Because I live near a hotel. You know the kind, one of the few places in town known to cater to expats. They are all in one shape or form the same. But the guy who owns the hotel pays the guy who controls the water in our sector a little bit more each month and so the water guy reroutes almost all of the water to the hotel. The old Hargeisa water manager was a friend of ours and when we told him our hypothesis in this regard he investigated, found it to be true, fought tooth and nail (I heard directly many of the conversations between him and the sector manager who is below him) for us, and still was only moderately successful in getting us water. Since he was sacked for unknown reasons which had nothing to do with his competence but basically boiled down to the other dude supported the government than won the recent election and had to be rewarded somehow, since that time we have gotten water through the pipes on only a couple of occasions.
So water and I have seemingly broken up. And that is not cool with me. It isn’t cool in a way that has nothing to do with what any policymaker or bureaucrat or large NGO marketing department wants me to think. It isn’t cool and it has nothing to do with funding levels (throwing more money at the sector isn’t going to get the pipes buried deeper, repaired faster, or micro-managed more equitably), bold statements, or glossy web sites. It isn’t cool and much of it comes down to stupidity and laziness.
Excuse me, I gotta run, the dude that drives the donkey cart with the ex-oil drum on the back is here to deliver my water.
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