Thursday, April 7, 2011

Water Week celebrations: What does it mean to Tanzanians?

EVERY year Tanzania celebrates the International Water Day in March just like other nations worldwide. The reasons for this is to effectively remind the public the importance of water commodity and its impact to the economic development and community use as a whole. The National Water Week celebrations is commonly known as “Maji Week celebrations”. The climax of this important event for this year was held last week in Mwanza city under the theme “Water for cities” This is also the theme for the International Water Day 2011 that reflects over exploitation of available water resources and better targeting of urban poor. The significance of this occasion was adopted from the United Nations General Assembly declaration of International drinking water in 1980, and sanitation decade (1981-1991). The slogan responds to urban challenges with activities aiming to communicate messages on growing urban water and sanitation demand, increased pollution from municipal and industrial discharges, climate change and its foreseen risks and challengers. During Maji week celebrations in the country, officials and stakeholders of the industry takes the opportunity to educate the public in general on the importance of water as applied alongside national policy. On the other side, the public also gets an opportunity to express their opinions regarding the implementation of the applied policy and the strategies of getting safe drinking water for the people. Since the inauguration of ‘Water week’ celebrations in Tanzania, the significance of this event in a broader aspect is to analyze and review the implementation of water programs and hence put forward some more strategies aiming at furthering the development of the water sector in the country. When commemorating the water week, there are important discussions on various development and reforms which are highlighted in terms of the provision and development of water services. Obviously, water scarcity and ways to curb the phenomenon is often given the centre stage of discussions as this is mostly experienced in rural areas where the majority of the poor people lives. The impact of low water supply coverage falls primarily on the poor in urban and rural areas where the urban poor pay high prices to water vendors. In rural areas the low water supply coverage manifests itself in low agricultural production and poor quality of life. Far back in 1970 Tanzania had launched a 20 year national water supply program that aimed at providing reliable water supply by 1991. With that plan, every Tanzanian was supposed to be supplied with clean and safe water within a walking distance of 400 meters away from his/her residence. The program experienced a number of crippling constraints such that the set target has to date not yet realized. A combination of a number of problems and constraints made it necessary to push the targeted year of achievement of the water supply program from 1991 to 2002. One of the setbacks was due to the application of sophisticated technologies which ultimately rendered water supply systems quite expensive to operate and maintain. The role of the government towards rural and urban water supply is to ensure that the entire country’s population gets a reliable and sustainable water services. In view of this, the government has put down various strategic plans so as to successfully achieve its goals. To implement this, the government is currently encouraging and creating a conducive environment for the water stakeholders in the country in collaboration with sector institutions such as those engaging in drilling water wells, dams as well as those running the water harvesting technology. The overall objective of the program is to ensure safe water supply to the people in the country. The aim is to bring about accelerated development by using water as a catalyst for human life as well as industrial development. Under the on-going public sector reforms, the government is striving hard to ensure a smooth operation in the water sector for the attainment of the water supply services at cost effective prices. Specific objectives are to locate and develop safe and sustainable water sources through drilling of deep well and construction of dams to increase water availability for different socio-economic uses and to promote reliable, timely, quality and affordable services to rural and urban population. According to an expert in water industry, water storage is the key requirement to provide a dependable source of water. Depending on local environmental conditions, rainwater harvesting may provide a supplementary supply, an alternative supply or the only feasible improved supply, especially in rural arid and semi-arid areas. Engineer Ezekiel Chonya who is an hydrologist noted that, “rainwater harvesting is a feasible option for improving living conditions of many millions of people currently facing serious water supply problems in the country. It is known to be a traditional source of water in many parts of the country, especially in rural areas, where reliable, adequate and potable water within a reasonable distance is rarely found.

No comments: