Dodoma — While the government is seeking to tighten the screws on individuals and businesses found to misuse water resources, lawmakers are already punching holes in that.
This came out in the open yesterday as members of Parliament were discussing the Water Supply and Sanitation Bill (2018) which was tabled in the august House by the minister for Water, Prof Makame Mbarawa.
The Bill - which had been formally read for the second and third time - provides that anyone found to be misusing water resources will be liable on conviction to a fine between Sh5 million and Sh10 million.
However, some legislators in the debating chamber required the government to be specific on what 'improper use of water resources' means.
The Bill also imposed a fine of not less than Sh5 million, or a jail term not less than six months, for those found to have diverted water to purposes other than what they had applied for.
The law, which was enacted yesterday, will also apply to persons interfering with water infrastructure. If convicted, they will be liable to a fine between Sh50,000 and Sh1 million, or serve a month in jail.
The chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Water, Mr Mahmoud Mgimwa (MP, Mufindi-North, CCM), counselled the government to revisit the penalties.
"The fines imposed upon persons and institutions should vary. They should be between Sh500,000 and Sh5 million for individuals, and between Sh5 million and Sh50 million for institutions," Mr Mgimwa proposed.
The shadow minister for the Water ministry, Mr Hamidu Bobali (Mchinga; CUF), said the fines proposed by the government were too high.
"We understand that it is an offense to vandalise water infrastructure. But, in our opinion, the government should not take advantage of (the law) by turning such offences into another source of public revenue," said Mr Bobali - thoughtfully adding: "We don't condone vandalism of public property, including water infrastructure. But the government should reconsider its proposed measures."
The fiery Kigoma-Urban MP, Zitto Kabwe (ACT-Wazalendo), suggested that the new law should be in favour of rural dwellers - given that it is more expensive for them to access water than it is in urban dwellers.
"Reports show that rural residents spend 16 per cent of their income on water supplies as opposed to one per cent spent by urban dwellers," Mr Kabwe stated.
The new piece of legislation seeks to provide for sustainable management, adequate operation and transparent regulation of water supply and sanitation services in the country.