15 November 2011

Tanzania: Challenges Facing Safe, Clean Water Provision

The Water Sector Development Programme was commissioned four years ago aimed at trying to find solutions to a long standing challenge of providing clean and safe water to the majority of Tanzanians.

Despite progress made since the establishment of the programme, provision of water supply remains one of the biggest problems especially in the rural areas. The immediate aim of the programme was to increase access to clean and safe drinking water to at least 90 per cent of urban dwellers and to 65 per cent rural people.

Access to safe water is essential for addressing poverty and health problems. Data collected by Unesco last year on the incidence of waterborne, water-related and water washed

diseases indicated that these were mostly prevalent where people used contaminated water or had little water for use.

It is unfortunate that access to water and sanitation remains low in Tanzania where only slightly over half the population is estimated to have an improved water source with gaping differences between urban centres (about 81 per cent) and rural areas (about 46 per cent). In rural areas access is defined as meaning households have to travel less than half a kilometre to a protected water source in the dry season.

Both as a whole and on average, Tanzania has extensive water resources, however, water sources are distributed unevenly both in time and space. During the dry season, for example, even large rivers can dry up or heir flow declines substantially. Some parts of the country receive on the average up to 3,000mm of rain per year while in other regions annual rainfall averages 600mm.

And projections indicate that by 2025 Tanzania will experience water stress due to population growth and the resulting increase in consumption. Water stress is defined as average per capita water resources below 1,500 cubic metres. Lakes alone cover about 7 per cent of the country's land surface.

On the orders here are three African Great Lakes of Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyasa. Inland lakes include Lake Rukwa, Lake Eyasi and Lake Manyara. There are also nine major basins in the country divided according to the recipient water body. Further, there are big rivers flowing to the lakes.

Ground water is also another source of water for both urban and rural areas. The current situation of sanitation and hygiene in the country is not conducive for supporting a disease-free and happy living environment.

Access to basic sanitation is estimated at 93 per cent but access to improved sanitation is 35 per cent according to the definition of Joint Monitoring Programme of Water Supply and Sanitation. Only 3 per cent of the population has access to flush toilet.

The present situational framework for water and sanitation is based on the National Water Sector Development Strategy of 2006 which sets out a strategy for implementing the National Water Policy (NAWAPO) of 2002. The policy aims at achieving sustainable development in the sector through an 'efficient use of water resources and efforts to increase the availability of water and sanitation services'.

The National Water Sector Development Programme (WSDP) of 2006 is centred on commercial service provision including private sector participation in urban areas and community ownership and management in rural areas. It also sets out to implement 'demand driven approaches' and the programme promotes the integration of water supply and sanitation with hygiene education.

The programme has four components: l Water Resources Management; l Institutional development and capacity building; l Rural water supply and sanitation - as part of this component, comprehensive district water supply and sanitation plans are to be developed; l Urban water supply and sanitation - which aims at the execution of utility business plans in regional and district capitals, as well at the implementation of national and small towns water schemes.

The programme was also supposed to address infrastructure improvements as well as other top priority areas that previously did not receive significant funding and urgently require assistance to upgrade water supply and sanitation systems. The main interventions would include refurbishment, upgrading and extension of existing water supply systems including development of water sources and treatment plants.

Water and sanitation policies in the country are developed in line with the Development Vision 2025 and the National strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty, popularly referred to by its Kiswahili acronym MKUKUTA. Universal access of safe water is one of the objectives of Vision 2025, to be realised through the involvement of private sector and the empowerment of local governments.

One of the primary goals is to achieve increased access to clean, affordable and safe water, sanitation, decent shelter, a safe and sustainable environment. The legislative framework for water supply and sanitation is based on Water Supply and Sanitation Act number 12 enacted in May 2009, which outlines the responsibilities of government authorities involved in the water sector, establishes Water Supply and Sanitation Authorities as commercial entities and allows for their clustering where this leads to improved commercial viability.

It further provides for the registration and operation of Community Owned Water Supply Organisations and regulates the appointment of board members. Despite significant achievement in the provision of clean and safe water supply and sanitation to the people general, the sector faces many challenges including deterioration of water supply schemes caused by inadequate management; inadequate availability of spare parts due to non-standardised investment; inadequate investments for development of water schemes due to high capital requirements.

Other challenges include scattered settlements in rural areas make costly investments for water supply services; improper and uncontrolled allocation of water resources to different users; inadequate involvement of beneficiaries in managing and controlling water supply

schemes resulting into communities lack of sense of ownership; climate changes and rainfall variations; environmental degradation as a result of increased human activities; and inadequate management of competing needs of water resources for various requirements.

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