Last month my friend Caroline mentioned in an email that water supplies in Dakar, the capital of the West African country of Senegal, had been cut off. Over the next few days she revealed – in words and images – a moving and extraordinary picture of how the citizens of Dakar coped with the crisis. — Sabita Banerji
People dig wells to access water. The water filtered by the sand and funnelled into containers is carried home. It will serve as water for washing, cooking and for many who cannot afford mineral water, drinking. Some add bleach to disinfect it before drinking, but many do not.
I feel like writing the story of the lack of running water that has afflicted most of Dakar for the past 12 days and sending it to the president. The situation is becoming catastrophic. Perhaps a photo journal would be more effective. This morning I almost laughed it was so horribly comical as I drove through my neighbourhood and didn’t see a single person over the age of about 3.5 who wasn’t carrying a bottle or a bucket. It is all anyone talks about. The queues for the few pumps wind around the houses with seemingly no end in sight. As I sit on my balcony, people below are digging down into the sand by torchlight until they reach water (which I assumed would be salt water, but apparently not. In any case, I am certain it cannot be very clean). Insha’allah it will be back on tomorrow …
People are using all sorts of containers with which to collect water. Some have clearly previously contained toxic substances but they don’t have much choice as containers are in short supply and being sold at ridiculously inflated prices.
The water shortage continues without hope of it being resolved in the next few days (there was an explosion at the site of the damaged pipe this morning while they were trying to repair it with six workman seriously injured). I am going to start writing it down because there are so many human sides of the story to document …
I was enthusiastic about writing about it last week, but I’m too exhausted now .. Besides which, it’s becoming the new reality and not so novel anymore – walking down to the beach well in the morning to get water for cleaning and toilet flushing and to boil for clothes washing; driving to one of my contacts’ houses across town to stock up on tap water, some of which I deliver to a couple of car-less friends and dish out to the watchman and neighbours, and the rest I carry up my four flights of stairs; and going to various stores around town in search of Senegalese mineral water … It’s almost all I’ve done this weekend and I am about to collapse!
More and more wells are dug every day to meet the demand and as more young men learn the trade.
Putting up a tarpaulin over my neighbour’s well before the sun gets too hot.
After being refused water last night by some horrible men in the courtyard of a friend of a friend’ house, I finally cracked. I could have filled a bucket with the tears shed I now realise 😉
The water company has found a temporary solution to fix the pipe which they opened last night; water is now making its way down the pipe over the 250km distance to Dakar. If the temporary fix holds this time, we should have a very light pressure of water coming through the taps as soon as tonight until the permanent solution (a new piece of pipe will be machined in France) is in place by mid-October.
A queue of buckets for a well.
The freshly-machined section of pipe has reached Senegalese soil! It arrived a week ago and since then we have had plenty of opportunity to see and admire it on TV. We are told that water will be turned off tomorrow for three to four days whilst the part is put in place. Aside from the odd middle-of-the-night burst, I have been largely without running water since Wednesday last week, so the unofficial cut will clearly be somewhat longer. I am not complaining though; it will be worth every bucket shower if water can flow at a higher pressure through the long supply pipe and cascade from our taps at any time of the night or day that we care to open them …
Emails and photos by Caroline Horne.