Ministry of Water, Irrigation & Electricity (MoWIE) is finalising the preparation of terms of reference (ToR) to hire a consultant for urban water supply and sanitation projects in 23 towns with half a billion dollar budget.
The project, expected to benefit over 3.38 million residents in the selected towns and cities, is scheduled to be completed within six years of its commencement with 505 million dollars financial backing from the World Bank (WB).
"The development objective of the project is to increase access to improved water supply and sanitation services in an operationally efficient manner in Addis Abeba and selected secondary cities," reads World Bank's document.
Among the beneficiary cities, six are located in Oromia, four in Amhara, two in Tigray and Somali, one each in Afar, Benishangul, Harari and Gambella and three in Southern Nations Nationalities & People's regional states. The city administrations of Dire Dawa and Addis Abeba are also among the beneficiaries.
"The towns are selected based on their population size," Bezuneh Tolcha, public relations and communications director at the Ministry told Fortune.
These towns, a few among the total 973 in the country, have a population size between 100,000 to 300,000 and are regional secondary towns as well as all regional capitals.
From the 3.38 million beneficiary individuals, 2.27 million will receive improved sanitation facilities and the rest will get better water supply services.
The WB finance is a part of the Second Urban Water Supply & Sanitation Project approved in March 2017 and expected to be realised by January 2018. From the finance, a four million dollar grant was committed to capacity building, while the remaining was pledged as a soft loan.
The total loan has two parts: 320 million dollars from International Development Association (IDA) with a maturity period of 38 years and a six-year grace period and the balance from IDA Scale-Up Facility Credit with a 30-year maturity and nine-year grace period.
Sanitation takes the lion's share of 70pc from the finance with the rest to be utilised for pure water provisions in the towns.
"Sanitation and waste management didn't get much attention previously as water supply was the government's priority," said Bizuneh. "And the poor sanitation system posed many risks for the country."
Sewer and drainage system coverage in the country is only 10pc in Addis Abeba and six percent at a national level. However, 63pc of the population had access to pure water at a national level last year.
"Better late than never," comments Abebe Dinku (Prof.), an expert with over three decades of experience in civil engineering and has conducted various research on sanitation systems in the city and the country. "Even though it is late, the move of the Ministry and the Bank is significant for the towns with poor sanitation."
The project is divided into three components, the first one focuses on Addis Abeba allocating 260 million dollars: 224.6 million dollars for sanitation service improvement, 33.1 million dollars for operational efficiency improvement and 2.3 million dollars for project management and institutional strengthening.
After the project's conclusion, the government expects the sewer system coverage in Addis Abeba to reach 50pc.
"The target seems ambitious," said Abebe. "Even 30pc would be a great success."
Component two will be implemented on 22 towns with 241 million dollars, of which sanitation service improvement took 196 million dollars and water supply 36.8 million dollars; the remaining 8.2 million dollars will be used for project management and institutionalisation.
The last component is institutional strengthening and project management to be executed with four million dollars.
The Ministry is now forming project offices to work on coordinating the implementation of the projects at federal, regional and town levels. After finalising these, it will launch the implementation which includes feasibility studies, and sanitation and business plans.
For the first Urban Water Supply & Sanitation Project, the Bank pledged 250 million dollars for the detailed design and feasibility studies for five cities including Dire Dawa, Adama, Meqelle, Bahir Dar and Hawassa are underway.
Last month, two Greek companies namely Z&A Consulting Engineers and LDK Consultants were hired for the assessment. Z&A Consulting is studying the feasibility of Meqelle, Dire Dawa and Adama while LDK is undertaking the study in Hawassa and Bahir Dar. The two companies are expected to finalise the assesement in nine months.
The tender to hire the primary consultant is expected to be floated early next year and plans to conclude the hiring process within half a year.
Installation of sewerage pipes with wider radius increasing their life cycle to at least half a century and fire hydrant placements like in developed countries should be considered by the Ministry during implementation, according to Abebe.