Access to clean water is a human right of Ugandans

Sunday March 22 2020


By Harold Acemah

Today, member states of the United Nations celebrate World Water Day in appreciation of a commodity which most people in Uganda and many African countries take for granted, namely water. The day provides an opportunity to advocate sustainable use and management of freshwater resources and focus attention on access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

Water, whose scientific name is hydrogen oxide, is an essential commodity to sustain life on earth, which is a unique planet in the solar system. From outer space the earth looks blue in colour which denotes the fact that water is the predominant component of our planet.

Unlike most countries in the world, Uganda has been blessed by God with abundant freshwater resources, including Lake Victoria, Lake Albert, Lake Kyoga, Lake George and River Nile, the longest river in the world.

I wish God could bless Uganda with decent, honest, incorruptible and selfless leaders of integrity who are committed to spearhead collective efforts of Ugandans geared towards making the best use of our beloved country’s God-given resources.

The decision to observe March 22 annually as World Water Day was proposed in Agenda 21 adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. World Water Day was observed for the first time in 1993.

The theme for this year’s World Water Day is: “Water and Climate Change” and how the two are inextricably linked, which is quite appropriate and timely because adapting to the water effects of climate change will protect health and save lives. In addition, using water more efficiently will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


The United Nations has been involved for decades in addressing challenges and problems arising from increasing demand for water worldwide to meet domestic, commercial, industrial and agricultural needs of billions of people and member states.

In this regard, the world organisation convened the United Nations Water Conference in 1977 at Mar del Plata, Argentina. United Nations member states, including Uganda, agreed in a plan of action adopted at the 1977 conference that “all peoples, whatever their stage of development and social and economic conditions, have the right to have access to drinking water in quantities and of a quality equal to their basic needs.”

According to the United Nations, “the human right to water is indispensable for leading a life of human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realisation of other human rights.”

How much has government of Uganda done to achieve the above objectives and goals which Uganda supported at UN conferences?
The UN General Assembly launched an “International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1981-1990) which focused attention on this critical resource for all human beings.

It is estimated that, as of today, 20 per cent of global population face water shortages and that figure is expected to rise to 30 per cent by 2025; most of the water deficient countries are found in the third world, especially in Africa and Asia.

The causes of water shortage include, inefficient use, degradation of water by pollution and over-exploitation of water reserves.
The UN system has played a leading role in efforts to achieve sustainable development of finite and fragile freshwater resources. FAO, for example, has promoted the efficient use and conservation of water resources in order to achieve food security.

Water is life
Although the Scripture teaches that human beings are made of dust, my nephew who is a renowned medical doctor tells me that almost 70 per cent of the human body consists of water which underscores the important role of water.

Against this background, Parliament should, in my opinion, urgently double or even treble the budgetary allocation to the line ministry of Water in order to ensure that every Ugandan enjoys the right to clean fresh water in sufficient quantities.

I would like to give credit to National Water and Sewerage Corporation for the commendable work done since NWSC was established by Gen Idi Amin in 1972, by Decree No 34, towards fulfilling its mission: “To sustainably and equitably provide cost-effective quality water and sewerage services to the delight of all stakeholders, while conserving the environment.”

A lot remains to be done, including reducing substantially the unit price of water, especially for domestic use. Most Ugandans cannot afford clean water supplied by NWSC. Water should, in my opinion, not be taxed because it’s a human right and a basic need of all Ugandans.

Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.