20 March 2007

Rwanda: Water Shortage, a Threat to Our Lives

Kigali — The problem of water shortage is still alarming in the country and especially in Kigali City, and inhabitants have continued to worry about the hygiene especially in restaurants, clinics and homes.

For instance, Kabeza, Kimironko and in some other parts of the city, it's coming to two months with a continuous shortage of water.

Certainly, the government has been struggling to provide clean water to its citizens, especially in rural areas. Sometime back, trucks rolled in both Eastern and Western provinces of the country to install water taps, and men equipped with drilling machines were seen in action. Shovels and pipes spilled from the truck and workers cracked to open the scarlet earth.

Contacting one of the inhabitants in Byumba, Jean Marie Hategeka, 60, told this reporter that twenty kilometres separated residents from the source of water in the mountains, and work was successfully completed within a period of two months.

"We thank those who sacrificed their time and energy to train and mobilise us on how to access water from the mountains," said Hategeka.

Rwanda's rural water projects are proved to be a leading example to most of Africa countries, and it was hailed as a leap into a new era.

One Jean Pierre Kamali, 67, is a resident of Rukomo, in the Eastern Province, says that he was among the locals who were hired by the engineers, during the construction process of water taps in 1997.

He said that residents were back with their ancestors, down the wells, fetching the contaminated water, filling their pots and jerry canes, using the water cook, drink, and even bathing.

The strategy and promises of providing clean water started far back in the mid 80s by then government. The idea to start water systems started as part of a race to develop the rural areas. Mountain water collected in walls was filtered, stored and piped into the taps.

Fortunately, diseases such as cholera has claimed none in country, despite the dirty water that was or has been used, and some women have been safe from the daily hardships of collecting water from longer distances with their babies at the back.

Nevertheless, the regime then, asked the officials and community leaders to sensitise the population about the conservation of water.

The authorities ignored the idea, not considering people who live in mountainous areas, for instance in Eastern, Western or even in the Northern Province.

However, the current government have given every community the responsibility to manage its water supply. For instance, in Gikondo-Karurama cell, Vincent Hagirimana, is in charge of the cell taps.

Unfortunately, those people are watching helplessly as their taps dry up. I suggest the government together with other water organisations solve this problem before it becomes worse, because deadly diseases like cholera might crop up.

Here, the government will spend a lot on treatment than what it would have spent on providing clean water.

Water is still a serious problem countrywide but if the government takes serious initiatives to address this problem, hopefully it will be settled, and people will soon have access to plenty of clean water and the recipients should also play their role in conserving the sources of water.

When the Managing Director of ELECTROGAZ (Water utility), John Milenge was contacted for a comment on the issue of water shortage in the city, he denied that there is no such problem.

However, when referred to places like Kabeza and Kimoronko, Milenge said that he is aware of the issue of Kabeza, and that the authority is planning to put up a tender board, so as to install bigger pipes which will supply enough water to all residents. "I'm aware about that problem and we are trying to get big pipes which will be supplying enough water to the residents," he said.

However, Milenge denied that Kimironko has any problem with water shortage. "I'm not aware about that, but if at all the problem is there, immediate measures will be taken to solve the problem."

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