11 August 2014

Rwanda: Newly Restructured Energy, Water Utilities Pledge Better Services

The Rwanda Water and Sanitation Corporation is just a couple of weeks old. It, however, has inherited the gigantic responsibility of efficiently supplying the growing cities and populations with sufficient and clean water.

The Water and Sanitation Corperation is an offspring of EWSA, the former public institution responsible for managing and meeting the energy and water demands in the country. The energy and water sections are now independently operated and managed.

James Sano, the managing director of the Water and Sanitation Corporation (WSC), told The New Times that the split was unique and structured perfectly to bring Rwanda's water woes to an end.

"The focus at this point is to make sure that we work with efficiency, work directly with customers, make bills on time, make profit and also provide water consistently," Sano said.

"The restructuring process will take 12 months and we shall also be looking to expand service provision by providing water to the rural areas."

It is no easy task and Sano acknowledges that.

"There is a lot to be done but we are confident," he added.

The new water company started operations on July 31, and according to Sano, it will no longer be run as a government utility like EWSA, but as a 100 per cent government-owned corporation.

"Previously, the focus was on only generating and providing services, but this is changing. We shall work as a profit seeking company at the same time prioritising service delivery because water will always remain a social good," he said.

Challenges of workforce:

EWSA was also bogged down with a large number of workers, many of whom performed duplicate duties, a factor which increased its inefficiencies.

According to Sano, the new structure will have an optimum number of efficient workers.

"EWSA was too large to be managed optimally. We have 900 employees for water alone; so we need fewer workers and we plan to do all this within a year," he said.

In WSC are new faces, like Giselle Umuhumuza, the chairperson of the Board of Directors, who, together with a team of six members, will be providing strategic guidance and counsel to the agency.

"This agency is going to change the culture of water provision in Rwanda," Umuhumuza said.

"We are a team of seven and have excellent people in audit and financing, experts in engineering standards and those with ample knowledge of water resources."

Although this is not the first time they have witnessed a split between water and electricity management, sanitation experts in Rwanda are optimistic that it will work this time round due to the level of seriousness and desire to change things.

"The separation of water and electricity management is a good idea and it will lead to the much needed efficiency," Maurice Kwizera, country manager of WaterAid Rwanda, an international NGO, said.

He added that splitting the utilities will bring more specialisation and relief to areas that have suffered long spells without water.

Tapping and storing water:

He, however, warned that the ever-growing population, there was need to sensitise people on water storage methods rather than depending on the water corporation.

"I am aware that government has large water projects in the pipeline, but as we wait to see these projects realised, we still have challenges getting safe water to all corners of the country," Kwizera said.

"What we are doing at WaterAid is to teach technologies such as rainwater harvesting to communities. People can build underground water tanks which are between 90 and 120 cubic metres. Imagine if all schools in Rwanda had this, the strain on water provision would lessen instantly."

All said and done, lack of water is still a major problem in Kigali and there seems to be no short term solution.

Several suburbs in Kigali lack water frequently and residents are demanding faster solutions.

"I own a shop and rent a house in Kimironko but having water at either place is very rare. Maybe government will focus better now that water is going to be managed separately, but I don't expect this water shortage to stop tomorrow," Fidel Nsengimana, told The New Times.

Statistics show that to satisfy Rwanda's population, 120,000 cubic metres of water must be supplied daily, yet currently, only 70,000 cubic metres is available.

Under the Bulk Water Project, two new water treatment plants are set to be installed in Nyanza and Juru Hills in Kagarama and Bugesera, respectively, with a capacity to supply the city 40,000 cubic metres per day.

The plants are set to be constructed by private investors on a 25-year concession, although water distribution will remain the role of WSC.

This will be complimented by the Mutobo Water Supply Project, whose construction is underway amnd is expected to provide 100,000 cubic metres per day upon completion.

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