Goal six of the UN General Assembly on new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in last September, requires countries to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” by 2030.
The goal is premised on the fact that water scarcity or availability determines the quality of life. Already, according to the world body, more than 40 per cent of people globally do not have access to clean water yet more stress is being exerted on the available water due to rising temperatures which evaporates it into the atmosphere.
Uganda derives this priceless resource either by surface water, under river flow, groundwater, frozen water, especially in Rwenzori areas, or desalination done by National Water and Sewerage Corporation.
With a wetlands cover of 4,500 square kilometres (1.9 per cent of Uganda’s total area), according to a 2015 report by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos), and a legion of other lakes and rivers, including Lake Victoria, George, Edward, Albert, and Kyoga, along with the River Nile, the country is steadily harnessing the water for economic development.
For safe drinking water, the UBOS report says during the 2013/14, water production was 93.8 million cubic metres compared to 87.3 million cubic metres produced in the 2012/13 representing an increment of 7.5 per cent.
The Directorate of Water Development (DWD), which supplies unmetered water to Ugandans, especially in the rural areas, supplied 3.3 million cubic metres in 2013/2014 with Yumbe District and Elgon region taking 12,279 cubic meters) and Sipi (4,446 cubic meters) respectively.
Ubos statistics also shows that 65 per cent of Ugandans can now access safe water for drinking.
Another important resource harnessed from water bodies is the fish. 461 million tones of fish were caught in Uganda’s water bodies as captured in the 2015 Ubos report. It is believed that more fish could have been captured but not included in the report for a number of reasons. Several jobs were created either directly or through the value chain.
In the hydropower sector, which solely relies on water, the country is running or is constructing several dams to generate the more needed power. Adekokwok Hydroelectric Power Station, Bugoye Power Station in Kasese District on River Mubuku, Bujagali Power Station, Kiira Power Station, on River Nile are some of sources of electricity currently. Others in progress include Karuma Dam, Isimba, among other small hydropower stations spread across the country.
The agricultural sector is slowly but increasing demand for water for irrigation while without it, it is dependent on it.
Because of this wide network of power generation, total installed capacity of electricity power plants increased by 4.4 per cent from 827.5 MW in 2013 to 867.0 MW in 2014.
However, even with such invaluable contribution to Uganda’s economic development, several water sources are experiencing disruptions from human made activities like reclaiming wetland, settling around the rivers and lakes buffer zones and cutting down trees which lead to formation of rainfall to refill the water sources.
“For the case of cost, Kampala and surrounding areas, the cost of treating water has gone up about five times in recent years,” says Paul Mafabi, the director of environment affairs, Ministry of Water and Environment.
The increasing cost of treating water, according to Mr Mafabi, is not good for a poor country which increasing water supplied by NWSC will mean several people do not access it, so the magic should be in maintaining wetlands intact to lower the cost of water treatment.
What will it cost
Wetlands filter water from pollutants, their vegetation especially papyrus, act as a raw material in crafts making, habitant for several creatures including endangered birds like the crested crane and reptiles that not only act as tourism attraction but also balance the bionetwork.
As the world marks the World Water Day under the theme “Better water, better jobs”, experts are calling proper utilisation of the water which is a source of life but also employment for millions of people.
Dr Callist Tindumugaya, commissioner for water resources and regulation, Ministry of Water and Environment, says water is at the heart of every adaptation to climate change and Ugandans should strive to jealously guard these water sources from pollution or even encroachment.
Any encroachment, Dr Tindumugaya says, presents “a global threat to human health and wellbeing as well as the integrity of the ecosystems,” especially at a time when the country is planning to utilise more water for industrialisation and agricultural purposes.
Uganda like the rest of world is required by the international community to avail water resources appropriately to all those who need them. And the same UN treaty demands a lot of the country setting 2020 to “ensure protection and restoration of water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, requires and lakes.”
National Environment Management Authority (Nema) recently announced a wetland restoration plan across the country starting with Lubigi wetland, northwest of Kampala.
National Development Plan II, which seeks to transform Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years.
Dr Wilberforce Kisamba Mugerwa, the chairman, National Planning Authority (NPA), says under the National Development Plan II, access and maintaining water sources has been given a top priority.
He says, for instance, the Authority has recommended that government increases access to safe water in rural areas from 65 per cent currently to 79 per cent and urban areas from 77 per cent to 100 per cent by 2030.
Also, Dr Kisamba Mugerwa said the NDPII emphases the need to increase “sanitation and hygiene levels in rural and urban areas, functionality of water supply system, incorporating gender concerns and crosscutting issues, promoting catchment based integrated water resources management and implement water resources management reforms”.
He however says attaining the above require everyone’s effective involvement and a well-coordinated financing mechanism.
There have been some achievements since 2000 when the world adopted the UN Millennium Development Goals were adopted with 2.1 billion people globally now having access to clean water.