20 May 2016

Tanzania: Looming Threats of Increased Water Problems

Photo: Daily News
Water scarcity - Villagers draw water from a burst pipe.

Amost every day, water makes the headlines somewhere in the world. Droughts, floods and pollution are all big news, as water becomes the most precious, and most contested, essential resource.

Today, however, the biggest story is that more than 650 million of the world's poorest people are living without access to an 'improved' source of drinking water.

The price paid by these communities - in wasted income, ill-health, and lost productivity - is extremely high and has a devastating impact from the family to the national level.

According to the WaterAid state of the world's water 2016 report, in 16 countries, more than 40 per cent of the population does not have access to even a basic water facility such as a protected well.

People from impoverished, marginalised communities have no choice but to collect dirty water from open ponds and rivers, or spend large chunks of their income buying water from vendors.

"This water is always a health risk; in many cases, it proves deadly. Globally, diarrhoea diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation are the second biggest child killer after pneumonia, taking 315,000 young lives every year," the report reads in part. What's more, water resources are becoming increasingly fragile as populations grow, land use changes and deforestation continues.

These threats will be exacerbated by the effects of climate change and have a disproportionately large impact on poor people without a safe, reliable water supply. Ignoring this reality is not an option.

Access to affordable water is a human right: "Paying for water and sanitation services must not limit one's capacity to pay for other essential goods and services."Achieving the Global Goals for Sustainable Development will be impossible in a world where one in ten people are trapped in a cycle of poverty and disease for want of a safe, affordable water supply of their own.

In Tanzania, recent projections indicate that the annual average of available water per capita in Tanzania will fall by 30 per cent from 1,952 cubic metres to 1,400 cubic metres between 2014 and 2025 as a result of diminution of water resources and population boom.

Speaking at the opening of a symposium organised by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) with the theme 'Making catchment governance work for all in situations of water scarcity and complexity', the Minister for Water and Irrigation, Eng Gerson Lwenge, said that the annual renewable water resource is 87 cubic kilometres and the annual average of available water per capita was 1,952 cubic metres in 2014 contrary to 2,700 cubic metres in 2001.

"The government has been and is keenly implementing water sector significant reforms in terms of policy, institutional and legal frameworks, to enhance efficient and effective management of water resources," he said.

He said that this transformational set up strengthens sector institutions for improving the integrated water resources management and development and ensuring that the number of people with access to sustainable water resources reaches the targets aspired by macroeconomic policies such as the National Development Vision 2025.

It was due to such disheartening statistics that Tigo Tanzania is trying to lend a hand in helping out by digging and donating water boreholes in areas that have serious water shortages.

Studies show that even in most rural areas where there is water, the rural communities have to walk for two to three kilometres in search of the commodity either to the public taps or where there are natural streams and rivers.

Among the areas that have, year in, year out, borne the brunt of water scarcity is Singida Region. The region was Tigo's first point of focus in the telecom's quest to support the government in its efforts to provide the important social amenity to its citizens. Despite the government's formulation of a major water sector reform policy in 2002, water availability and sanitation remains low in most areas.

Early this year, Tigo donated 12 water boreholes worth over 174m/- in villages in Singida in a bid to 'alleviate the existing shortage of safe and clean water in the country'.

Speaking at a handover ceremony held at Mtinko Village in Singida Region recently, Tigo North Zone Director, Mr George Lugata, said the donation is in line with the company's commitment to support community initiatives seeking to uplift people's living conditions. The villages that benefited from the donation with their districts in bracket are Lulumba, Kisana, Kisonzo, Songambele, Kinyeto and Damankia.

Others are Muungano, Ighuka, Kamenyanga, Sasajila, Mtinko and Kinampanda. "The donation is part of Tigo's investment on social projects that have high impact on the community. We believe that through these boreholes, Tigo is helping to solve perennial water shortage in this part Singida region partly caused by lack of sufficient rains particularly in the past four years," Lugata said.

Mr Lugata said the scarcity of water in most districts in Singida Region has led to residents wasting a lot of time in search of the commodity, a practice Tigo hopes will now come to an end with the provision of wells.

The handover was witnessed by the Minister for Water & Irrigation, Eng Gerson Lwenge who thanked Tigo for the timely donation, saying the boreholes will greatly reduce the persistent water shortage in the area and help to bolster the residents' social and economic wellbeing.

Calling other stakeholders to join the effort the minister said: "We sincerely thank Tigo for supporting us in our effort to solve the existing shortage of water in Singida and indeed in other regions in the country.

We believe the 12 boreholes will go a long way in reducing this recurrent social problem." Ms Elizabeth Kingu, a resident of Mtinko village, thanked the telecom saying: "Am very grateful for the donation of these wells because I can now access clean, safe drinking water near my home.

Previously, I was travelling for over ten kilometres to access water". Echoing her sentiments, John Makalla, a father of four children said: "My family was wasting a lot of time trekking for kilometres to look for clean water.

Now, with the donation of these boreholes from Tigo, my wife and children can get water easily and have ample time to perform other core duties". The impact of water shortage in most cases leads to a combination of epidemic diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and typhoid.

In 2010, statistics from Tanzania's ministry of water indicated that only about 44 per cent of people in the rural areas had access to safe drinking water. The availability of the commodity in urban areas, the report noted, stood at about 79 per cent.

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