Inter Press ServiceThe Southern Africa Water Wire – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 28 Jun 2017 07:01:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Water Crisis in Zimbabwehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/water-crisis-in-zimbabwe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-crisis-in-zimbabwe http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/water-crisis-in-zimbabwe/#respond Tue, 22 Mar 2016 07:40:06 +0000 Andrew Mambondiyani http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144292 A narrow dirty trail snakes through what used to be a small dam in Mpudzi Resettlement Scheme south of the eastern border city of Mutare. And what remains of this once perennial dam is just a small puddle of mudded water; the dirty water is completely covered with thick green algae. The dam used to […]

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OPINION: The Plight of Women and Girls in Zambezi’s Floodshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/02/opinion-the-plight-of-women-and-girls-in-zambezis-floods/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-the-plight-of-women-and-girls-in-zambezis-floods http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/02/opinion-the-plight-of-women-and-girls-in-zambezis-floods/#respond Mon, 02 Feb 2015 18:53:12 +0000 Dr. Julitta Onabanjo and Michael Charles http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138974 Dr. Julitta Onabanjo is Regional Director, UNFPA East and Southern Africa Region. Dr. Michael Charles is Officer-in-Charge Acting Regional Representative for IFRC Southern Africa Region Office.

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Flooding in Malawi. Courtesy of the Malawi Red Cross Society

By Julitta Onabanjo and Michael Charles
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 2 2015 (IPS)

The flooding of the Zambezi River has had devastating consequences for three countries in Southern Africa. The three worst affected countries are Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. 

Livestock has drowned, crops have been submerged or washed away and infrastructure has been badly damaged.Imagine being a pregnant woman airlifted from the floodplains and placed in a camp with no midwives, no sterilised equipment nor medical supplies to ensure a safe delivery.

Worse still, hundreds of lives have been lost – and the dignity of women and girls is on the line.

In Malawi, an estimated 638,000 people have been affected and the president has declared a state of disaster. About 174,000 people have been displaced in three of the worst affected districts out of 15 districts hit by floods.

A total of 79 deaths have been reported and about 153 people are still missing. Data disaggregated by age and sex are not readily available, however, it is estimated that about 330,000 of the 638,000 displaced people in the camps are women and close to 108,000 are young people.

The situation is also critical in Zimbabwe. According to preliminary assessments, approximately 6,000 people (1,200 households) have been affected, of which 2,500 people from 500 households are in urgent need of assistance. An estimated 40-50 per cent will be women or girls. More than ten people have drowned while many more have been injured, displaced and left homeless.

In Mozambique, almost all 11 provinces have experienced extensive rainfall. The central province of Zambézia was the worst hit – a bridge connecting central and northern Mozambique was destroyed by the floods in Mocuba district. Niassa and Nampula provinces were also seriously affected.

These three provinces are already among the poorest in the country, and for the most vulnerable – women, girls and children – the impact of flooding can be devastating.

Around 120,000 people from 24,000 families have been affected. The death toll due to flooding, lightning and houses collapsing has risen to 64, while more than 50,000 people from 12,000 families are in need of shelter. Others have fled to neighbouring Malawi. At least 700 out of an estimated 2500 people have been repatriated to date.

Mozambique has a recent history of recurrent floods. UNFPA is supporting the government and other partners to scale up efforts to safeguard the dignity of women and girls. This includes the positioning of reproductive health kits, hygiene kits and promoting gender-based violence prevention.

Flooding in Mozambique. Courtesy of UNFPA

Flooding in Mozambique. Courtesy of UNFPA

Health and reproductive health needs

As with most humanitarian situations, women, girls and children are usually the worst affected. In Mozambique, for example, close to 1,000 orphans and over 100 pregnant women and girls require urgent attention.

Imagine being a pregnant woman airlifted from the floodplains and placed in a camp with no midwives, no sterilised equipment nor medical supplies to ensure a safe delivery. This is a scenario that countless pregnant women are facing.

In addition to efforts by partners to address the food and infrastructural security needs of the people, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and erosion of dignity, and deserve adequate attention.

In Malawi, about 315 visibly pregnant women were identified in the three worst affected districts. Between Jan. 10 and 24, 88 deliveries were recorded by 62 camps in the worst affected districts. Twenty-four of these deliveries were among adolescents aged between 15 and 19 years, as reported from Phalombe, where fertility rates and teenage pregnancies are generally high.

Malawi floods. Some of the pregnant women receiving dignity kits at Somba camp in T A Bwananyambi, Mangochi. Courtesy of UNFPA

Malawi floods. Some of the pregnant women receiving dignity kits at Somba camp in T A Bwananyambi, Mangochi. Courtesy of UNFPA

Women living in camps for displaced people are fearful of gender-based violence, including rape and other types of sexual abuse. Several cases of gender-based violence have already been reported. In one of the districts, a total of 124 cases were brought to the attention of authorities.

The design of the camps and the positioning of toilets are said to be contributing to these cases. A woman from Bangula camp said: “The toilets are far away from where we are sleeping. We are afraid to walk to the toilets at night for fear of being raped. If the toilets could be located close by, this could assist us.”

Personal dignity and hygiene is a major challenge for women and young people, especially for adolescent girls. A teenager from Tchereni camp in Malawi said: “I lost everything during the floods. My biggest challenge is how to manage my menstrual cycle.”

It has been reported that women and girls are sharing sanitary materials, which seriously compromises their health and dignity.

Urgent action

In order to address the  sexual and reproductive health needs of affected populations, UNFPA Malawi has recruited and deployed full time Reproductive Health and Gender Coordinators to support the authorities with the management of SRH/HIV and gender-based violence (GBV) issues in the camps.

UNFPA has also distributed pre-positioned Reproductive Health kits as well as drugs and medical equipment to cater for clean deliveries, including by Caesarean section, and related complications of pregnancy and child birth in six districts and two central hospitals in the flood-affected areas.

Over 300 prepositioned dignity kits were distributed and 2,000 more have been procured, over half of which have already been distributed to women of child-bearing age in some of the most affected districts to allow the women to continue to live with dignity in their state of crisis.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal for CHF 2,7 million to assist Malawi Red Cross to step up emergency response activities, including a detailed needs assessment of the affected regions, the procurement of non-food items, the procurement and distribution of shelter materials, and the provision of water and sanitation services.

A similar process was applied for Mozambique and Zimbabwe, with the aim of saving more lives by providing immediate assistance to those in need.

But as partners working together to address the numerous problems that confront the affected populations – and warnings of more risks of flooding – we cannot neglect the plight of women and girls.

In humanitarian situations especially, the dignity and reproductive health and rights of women and girls deserves our full attention.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Africa’s Rural Women Must Count in Water Managementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/01/africas-rural-women-must-count-in-water-management/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africas-rural-women-must-count-in-water-management http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/01/africas-rural-women-must-count-in-water-management/#respond Mon, 26 Jan 2015 18:58:21 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138833 More women’s voices are being heard at international platforms to address the post-2015 water agenda, as witnessed at the recently concluded international U.N International Water Conference held from Jan. 15 to 17 in Zaragoza, Spain. But experts say that the same cannot be said of water management at the local level and countries like Kenya […]

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Africa's rural women must be brought into the post-2015 water agenda. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jan 26 2015 (IPS)

More women’s voices are being heard at international platforms to address the post-2015 water agenda, as witnessed at the recently concluded international U.N International Water Conference held from Jan. 15 to 17 in Zaragoza, Spain.

But experts say that the same cannot be said of water management at the local level and countries like Kenya are already suffering from the impact of poor water management as a result of the exclusion of rural women.

“At the Zaragoza conference, certain positions were taken as far as water is concerned, but the implementers, who are often rural women, are still in the dark,” environment expert Dismas Wangai told IPS.

Wangai gives the example of the five dams built around the Tana River, the biggest in Kenya. “It is very important that the so-called grassroots or local women have a say in water management because they are the most burdened by water stresses and are the best placed to implement best practices” – Mary Rusimbi, executive director of Women Fund Tanzania

He says that the dams have not been performing optimally due to poor land management as farmers continue to cultivate too close to these dams.

“This is a major cause of concern because about 80 percent of the drinking water in the country comes from these dams, as well as 60 to 70 percent of hydropower,” he says.

According to Wangai, there is extensive soil erosion due to extensive cultivation around the dams and as a result “a lot of soil is settling in these dams and if this trend continues, the dams will produce less and less water and energy.”

Mary Rusimbi, executive director of Women Fund Tanzania, a non-governmental organisation which works towards women rights,  and one of the speakers at the Zaragoza conference, told IPS that women must be involved in water management at all levels.

“It is very important that the so-called grassroots or local women have a say in water management because they are the most burdened by water stresses and are the best placed to implement best practices,” she said.

According to Rusimbi, across Africa women account for at least 80 percent of farm labourers, and “this means that if they are not taught best farming practices then this will have serious implications for water management.”

Alice Bouman, honorary founding president of Women for Water Partnership, told IPS that a deficit of water for basic needs affect women in particular, “which means that they are best placed to provide valuable information on the challenges they face in accessing water.”

She added that “they are therefore more likely to embrace solutions to poor water management because they suffer from water stresses at a more immediate level.”

According to Bouman, the time has come for global water partners to begin embracing local women as partners and not merely as groups vulnerable to the vagaries of climate change.

Water partnerships, she said, must build on the social capital of women because “women make connections and strong networks very easily. These networks can become vehicles for creating awareness around water management.” She called for developing a more comprehensive approach to water management through a gender lens.

Noting that rural women may not have their voices heard during international water conferences, “but through networks with civil society organisations (CSOs), they can be heard”, Rusimbi called for an end to the trend of international organisations bringing solutions to the locals.

This must change, she said. “We need to rope the rural women into these discussions while designing these interventions. They have more to say than the rest of us because they interact with water at very different levels – levels that are very crucial to sustainable water management.”

Wangai also says that rural women, who spend many hours looking for water, are usually only associated with household water needs.

“People often say that these women spend hours walking for water and they therefore need water holes to be brought closer to their homes” but, he argues, the discussion on water must be broadened, and proactively and consciously address the need to bring rural women on board in addressing the water challenges that we still face.

Edited by Phil Harris   

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Africa Must Prioritise Water in Its Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/01/africa-must-prioritise-water-in-its-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-must-prioritise-water-in-its-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/01/africa-must-prioritise-water-in-its-development-agenda/#respond Thu, 15 Jan 2015 18:35:42 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138666 Although African countries have been lauded for their efforts towards ensuring that people have access to safe drinking water in keeping with Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), they have nonetheless come under scrutiny for failure to prioritise water in their development agendas. Thomas Chiramba, Head of Freshwater Ecosystems Unit at the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) in […]

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Africa must now go beyond household water access indices to embrace water as a key development issue, say experts at the Jan. 15-17 U.N. International Water Conference in Zaragoza. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
ZARAGOZA, Jan 15 2015 (IPS)

Although African countries have been lauded for their efforts towards ensuring that people have access to safe drinking water in keeping with Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), they have nonetheless come under scrutiny for failure to prioritise water in their development agendas.

Thomas Chiramba, Head of Freshwater Ecosystems Unit at the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) in Kenya, told IPS that in spite of progress on the third component of MDG7 – halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015 – water scarcity still poses a significant threat to sustainable development in Africa.

Attending the United Nations’ International Water Conference being held in this Spanish city from Jan. 15-17,  he said that “there is too much focus on household water access indices and not enough on linkages between water and sustainable development.”While there are now more people in Africa with improved sources of water and sanitation, experts say that this is not enough. The continent is still facing water scarcity, with negative implications for growth and health.

While there are now more people in Africa with improved sources of water and sanitation, experts say that this is not enough. The continent is still facing water scarcity, with negative implications for growth and health.

In view of the rapid and unpredictable changes in environmental systems, Chiramba said that unless Africa broadens its national and international water goals the region will find it difficult to remain economically resilient.

“Water is key to the agricultural and energy sectors, both critical to accelerating growth and development in Africa,” he added.

The theme of the Zaragoza conference is ‘Water and Sustainable Development: From Vision to Action’ and is at the heart of adaptation to climate, also serving as a key link among climate systems, human society and environment.

One of the main aims of the conference is to develop implementing tools, with regard to financing, technology, capacity development and governance frameworks, for initiating the post-2015 agenda on water and sanitation.

More than 300 participants representing U.N. agencies and programmes, experts, the business community, and governmental and non-governmental organisations have converged with the main aim of addressing water as a sustainable development goal.

“Although water goals and targets were achieved under the MDGs, the main focus was on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), all geared towards poverty reduction,” said Chiramba. “But there was no explicit focus on addressing the sustainability aspect.”

As a result, say experts, water management issues were never comprehensively addressed at the national or international level, nor was the key role that water can play in growing the various sectors of the economy.

This year is also the last year of the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life’ which began in 2005, and will set the tone for World Water Day to be marked on March 22, which will also focus on ‘water and sustainable development’.

The primary goal of the ‘Water for Life’ Decade has been to promote efforts to fulfil international commitments made on water and water-related issues by 2015. The Water Decade has served to forge cooperation at all levels so that the water-related goals of the Millennium Declaration are achieved.

The end of the Decade also marks the beginning of new water campaigns, “this time, with great focus on the impact of water on development,” said Chiramba.

The Zaragoza water conference has brought to the fore the fact that the Decade has achieved the difficult task of isolating water issues as key to the development agenda and has provided a platform for governments and stakeholders to address the threats that water scarcity poses to development, experts say.

“It has also been a platform for stakeholders and government to discuss the opportunities that exist in exploiting water as a resource,” said Alice Shena, a civil society representative at the event.

As a result of the Water Decade, Shena noted, a broader international water agenda has been established that goes beyond universal access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.

“The agenda now includes the sustainable use and development of water resources, increasing and sharing the available benefits which have significant implications for every sector of the economy,” she said.

According to environment expert Nataliya Nikiforova, as a new era of development goals begins under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is clear that water will play a critical role in development.

She said  that if managed efficiently and equitably, water can play a key enabling role in strengthening the resilience of social, economic and environmental systems in the light of rapid and unpredictable changes.

Edited by Phil Harris

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The South African Water Utility That Uses Shipping Containers and Sewer Water to Provide Water for Allhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/the-south-african-water-utility-that-uses-shipping-containers-and-sewer-water-to-provide-water-for-all/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-south-african-water-utility-that-uses-shipping-containers-and-sewer-water-to-provide-water-for-all http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/06/the-south-african-water-utility-that-uses-shipping-containers-and-sewer-water-to-provide-water-for-all/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 09:37:10 +0000 Brendon Bosworth http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=134737 South Africa’s eThekwini municipality may have come under fire from residents from proposing to purify wastewater so it can be used for drinking, but this municipality’s pragmatic approach to water management has made it one of the most progressive in Africa.  Neil Macleod, head of water and sanitation at eThekwini municipality, which encompasses the port […]

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The Umgeni River system supplies drinking water to about five million people in the city of Durban, South Africa. But demand for water has outstripped supply for the past seven years. Pictured here is Howick Falls, which lies on the Umgeni River. Credit: Brendon Bosworth/IPS

By Brendon Bosworth
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Jun 3 2014 (IPS)

South Africa’s eThekwini municipality may have come under fire from residents from proposing to purify wastewater so it can be used for drinking, but this municipality’s pragmatic approach to water management has made it one of the most progressive in Africa. 

Neil Macleod, head of water and sanitation at eThekwini municipality, which encompasses the port city of Durban, has reason to be proud of his colleagues.

The eThekwini municipality, which was created through joining smaller municipalities within Durban, the province’s urban centre, has overcome huge challenges following its formation in 2000. “They actually translated the constitutional rights of South Africans to have access to water by definition into reality — that’s very important." -- Joppe Cramwinckel, director of water at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development

At that time, due to Apartheid planning, the city of Durban had first-world quality water services, serving about one million people, MacLeod told IPS. But there were another one million people living in the surrounding dormitory towns with neglected and degraded infrastructure. A further one million people living in the municipality’s rural areas had no access to proper water services, he explained.

South Africa’s 1996 constitution guarantees citizens the right to water, so over the years the municipality has rolled out water and sanitation services, often having to innovate in rural areas and informal settlements.

To provide sanitation services to citizens in informal settlements, the municipality has introduced modified shipping containers that house showers, wash troughs and toilets, Macleod explained.

Poor families also receive free water, an allocation of nine kilo-litres per month.

“We have about 300,000 families that receive free basic water and free basic sanitation — either a container toilet or a urine diverting toilet,” Macleod told IPS.

Last week, the municipality’s water and sanitation unit scooped the Stockholm Industry Water Award, which is given to utilities or companies that have achieved excellence in water management.

Jens Berggren, director of the Stockholm Water Prize and Stockholm Industry Water Award, tells IPS that the “[eThekwini municipality] has been addressing issues in a very pragmatic and understanding way.”

“Not from above, from a technical perspective, but based in reality — these are people’s lives that they have to live.”

Joppe Cramwinckel, director of water at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, one of the award’s partner organisations, told IPS “they’re operating under very difficult circumstances.”

“They have a large customer base to cover, and a variety of customers, and they have developed and experimented with some very novel approaches to deal with the big challenges they face.

“They actually translated the constitutional rights of South Africans to have access to water by definition into reality — that’s very important,” he said.

South Africa’s 232-kilometre Umgeni River is clean upstream but the closer it gets to the sea, the dirtier it becomes. Credit: Brendon Bosworth/IPS

South Africa’s 232-kilometre Umgeni River is clean upstream but the closer it gets to the sea, the dirtier it becomes. Credit: Brendon Bosworth/IPS

Water shortages on horizon

But Macleod and the water and sanitation department can’t afford to rest on their laurels, however.

As IPS reported in 2013, the municipality faces the prospect of future water shortages, due in part to its reliance on the oversubscribed Umgeni river system.

The recently built Spring Grove dam is now about 80 percent full, said Macleod, and with good rains recently, he is confident there won’t be shortages for the next two years.

“Statistically, we’re still okay until the end of 2015. Thereafter, who knows? If a drought hits and demand continues to grow the way it is then we move back into deficit,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you have rationing immediately, or restrictions, but the chances of it go up and up.”

Various water augmentation options for the region are currently on the table. The municipality has proposed treating and purifying its wastewater so it can be used as drinking water. The purified water would be mixed with conventional drinking water at a ratio of 30 percent re-used water to 70 percent conventional.

There has been some resistance to the idea, including a petition by concerned residents.

Since treated wastewater is discharged into rivers and then winds up in the drinking water supply, people are already drinking recycled sewage, said Macleod. “We’ve been drinking sewage for 40 years, quite happily, as has a lot of this country — Johannesburg included.” 

To buffer the water supply in future, state-owned company Umgeni Water, the largest supplier of bulk potable water in KwaZulu-Natal province, has proposed building two seawater desalination plants.

One of the plants would be on the south coast, adjacent to the Lovu River, and one would be on the north coast near Tongaat.

Each plant would be capable of producing 150 megalitres of water a day, enough to fill 75 Olympic swimming pools.

The proposed desalination plants could offer an alternative to building a costly and large dam on the uMkhomazi river, which would likely be operational by 2030.

Water would be sucked into the plants from one kilometre offshore, in the case of the Lovu plant, and 650 metres offshore in the case of the Tongaat plant, according to information supplied by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which is doing the environmental assessment for Umgeni Water.

The saltwater would be converted to potable water at the plants by the process of reverse osmosis. This involves pumping saltwater at high-pressure through a semi-permeable membrane that retains the salt, and allows water to pass through.

“It’s feasible but it’s just very energy intensive and much more expensive than the other options,” said Macleod of the desalination plants. “The harsh reality is we don’t have the energy and we can’t afford the costs.”

While authorities are weighing up the pros and cons of the various water augmentation options — recycling sewage water, building desalination plants, or constructing a new dam — time is running short.

“Soon we have to make a decision,” said Macleod. “It has to be this year.”

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“Sanitation for All” a Rapidly Receding Goalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/sanitation-rapidly-receding-goal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sanitation-rapidly-receding-goal http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/sanitation-rapidly-receding-goal/#comments Sat, 12 Apr 2014 00:10:32 +0000 Michelle Tullo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133616 World leaders on Friday discussed plans to expand sustainable access for water, sanitation and hygiene, focusing in particular on how to reach those in remote rural areas and slums where development projects have been slow to penetrate. The meeting, which took place amidst the semi-annual gatherings here of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) could […]

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An open drainage ditch in Ankorondrano-Andranomahery. Madagascar receives just 0.5 dollars per person per year for WASH programmes . Credit: Lova Rabary-Rakontondravony/IPS

By Michelle Tullo
WASHINGTON, Apr 12 2014 (IPS)

World leaders on Friday discussed plans to expand sustainable access for water, sanitation and hygiene, focusing in particular on how to reach those in remote rural areas and slums where development projects have been slow to penetrate.

The meeting, which took place amidst the semi-annual gatherings here of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) could be the world’s largest ever to take place on the issue."Ministers are much happier to talk and support a hydro project, like a huge dam, and are less happy to open up a public latrine." -- Darren Saywell

Water, sanitation and hygiene, collectively known as WASH, constitute a key development metric, yet sanitation in particular has seen some of the poorest improvements in recent years.

Participants at Friday’s summit included U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake as well as dozens of government ministers and civil society leaders.

“Today 2.5 billion people do not have access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene,” the World Bank’s Kim said Friday. “This results in 400 million missed school days, and girls and women are more likely to drop out because they lack toilets in schools or are at risk of assault.”

Kim said that this worldwide lack of access results in some 260 billion dollars in annual economic losses – costs that are significant on a country-to-country basis.

In Niger, Kim said, these losses account for around 2.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) every year. In India the figure is even higher – around 6.4 percent of GDP.

Friday’s summit was convened by UNICEF.

“UNICEF’s mandate is to protect the rights of children and make sure they achieve their full potential. WASH is critical to what we hope for children to achieve, as well as to their health,” Sanjay Wijesekera, associate director of programmes for UNICEF, told IPS.

“Every day, 1400 children die from diarrhoea due to poor WASH. In addition, 165 million children suffer from stunted growth, and WASH is a contributory factor because clean water is needed to absorb nutrients properly.”

Over 40 countries came to the meeting to share their commitments to improving WASH.

“Many countries have already shown that progress can be made,” Wijesekera said. “Ethiopia, for example, halved those without access to water from 92 percent in 1990 to 36 percent in 2012, and equitably across the country.”

A water kiosk in Blantyre, Malawi. Credit: Charles Mpaka/IPS

A water kiosk in Blantyre, Malawi. Credit: Charles Mpaka/IPS

Good investment

Indeed, the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for water halved the proportion of people without access to improved sources of water five years ahead of schedule. Yet the goal to improve access to quality sanitation facilities was one of the worst performing MDGs.

In order to get sanitation on track, a global partnership was created called Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), made up of over 90 developing country governments, donors, civil society organisations and other development partners.

“Sanitation as a subject is a complicated process … You have different providers and actors involved at the delivery of the service,” Darren Saywell, the SWA vice-chair, told IPS.

“NGOs are good with convening communities and community action plans. The private sector is needed to respond and provide supply of goods when demand is created. Government needs to help regulate and move the different leaders in the creation of markets.”

In addition, sanitation and hygiene are not topics that can gain easy political traction.

“It is not seen as something to garner much political support,” Saywell says. “Ministers are much happier to talk and support a hydro project, like a huge dam, and are less happy to open up a public latrine.”

Saywell says that an important part of SWA’s work is to demonstrate that investing in WASH is a good economic return.

“Every dollar invested in sanitation brings a return of roughly five dollars,” he says. “That’s sexy!”

Sustainable investments

Friday’s summit covered three main issues: discussing the WASH agenda for post-2015 (when the current MDGs expire), tackling inequality in WASH, and determining how these actions will be sustainable.

“We would like the sector to the set the course for achieving universal access by 2030,” Henry Northover, the global head of policy at WaterAid, a key NGO participant, told IPS.

Although the meeting did not set the post-2015 global development goals for WASH, it was meant to call public attention to the importance of these related goals and ways of achieving them.

“Donors and developing country governments need to stop seeing sanitation as an outcome of development, but rather as an indispensable driver of poverty reduction,” Northover said.

WaterAid recently published a report on inequality in WASH access, Bridging the Divide. The study looks at the imbalances in aid targeting and notes that, for instance, Jordan receives 850 dollars per person per year for WASH while Madagascar, which has considerably worse conditions, receives just 0.5 dollars per person per year.

The report says this imbalance in aid targeting is due to “geographical or strategic interests, historical links with former colonies, and domestic policy reasons”. Northover added to this list, noting that “donors are reluctant to invest in fragile states.”

“In India, despite spectacular levels of growth over the past 10 years, we have seen barely any progress in the poorest areas in terms of gaining access to sanitation,” he continued. “Regarding inequality, we are talking both in terms of wealth and gender: the task falls to women and girls to fetch water, they cannot publicly defecate, and have security risks.”

Others see funding allocation as only an initial step.

“Shift the money to the poorer countries, and then, so what?” John Sauer, of the non-profit Water for People, asked IPS. “The challenge is then the capacity to spend that money and absorb it into district governments, the ones with the legal purview to make sure the water and sanitation issues get addressed.”

Friday’s meeting also shared plans on how to use existing resources better, once investments are made.

“If there is one water pump, it will break down pretty quickly,” WaterAid’s Northover said. “This often requires some level of institutional capability for financial management.”

Countries also described their commitments to make sanitation sustainable. The Dutch government, for instance, introduced a clause in some of its WASH agreements that any related foreign assistance must function for at least a decade. East Asian countries like Vietnam and Mongolia are creating investment packages that also help to rehabilitate and maintain existing WASH systems.

“This is probably one of the biggest meetings on WASH possibly ever, and what we mustn’t forget is that the 40 or 50 countries coming are making a commitment to do very tangible things that are measurable, UNICEF’s Wijesekera told IPS. “That bodes well for achieving longer-term goals of achieving universal access and equality.”

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World Bank Clears Congo’s Controversial Dam Projecthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/world-bank-clears-congos-controversial-dam-project/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-bank-clears-congos-controversial-dam-project http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/world-bank-clears-congos-controversial-dam-project/#respond Fri, 21 Mar 2014 00:04:19 +0000 Jim Lobe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=133133 The World Bank Thursday approved a 73.1-million-dollar grant in support of a controversial giant dam project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). With another 33.4 million dollars approved by the African Development Bank late last year, the grant, which is being provided by the Bank’s soft-loan affiliate, the International Development Association (IDA), will […]

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By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON, Mar 21 2014 (IPS)

The World Bank Thursday approved a 73.1-million-dollar grant in support of a controversial giant dam project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

With another 33.4 million dollars approved by the African Development Bank late last year, the grant, which is being provided by the Bank’s soft-loan affiliate, the International Development Association (IDA), will be used to help establish the legal framework and state authority that will oversee the dam’s construction and operations.“If leaders of emerging economies are truly interested in the welfare of their citizens, they are better off laying grand visions of mega-dams aside.” -- Atif Ansar

It will also finance a number of environmental and social assessments to shape the development of the multi-billion dollar Inga 3 Basse Chute (BC) dam project.

“By being involved in the development of Inga 3 BC from an early stage we can help ensure that its development is done right so it can be a game changer by providing electricity to millions of people and powering commerce and industry,” said Makhtar Diop, the Bank’s vice president for Africa.

“Supporting transformative projects that expand people’s access to electricity is central to achieving the World Bank Group’s twin goals of helping to end extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity,” he added.

But the Bank’s support for the project drew criticism from some environmental and civil-society groups that have long opposed a project that is expected to cost at least 14 billion dollars.

“By approving Inga 3, the World Bank shows it has not learnt lessons from the bad experience of previous dams on the Congo River despite its claims to the contrary,” according to Rudo Sanyanga, Africa Director of the California-based International Rivers (IR).

“The Bank is turning a blind eye to the DRC’s poor governance and is taking short-cuts to the environmental assessment of the project,” he added.

That view was echoed by Maurice Carney, executive director of the Friends of the Congo, a Washington-based organisation with ties to community and environmental groups in the DRC.

“We see this decision as consistent with past World Bank projects that wind up as white elephants,” he told IPS. “There are a number of other alternatives for developing the DRC’s enormous energy capacity, including solar, wind, smaller-scale hydro and biofuel.

“The project is being presented as if it will help the population, but more often than not, these big dam projects end up serving industry at the expense of local communities many of which will be displaced once Inga 3 is fully developed.”

As currently envisioned, the Inga III dam would be the first in a series of hydroelectric installations along the Congo River, collectively referred to as the Grand Inga project. This would include a single 145-metre dam, which would flood an area known as the BundiValley, home to around 30,000 people.

The full project could provide up to 40,000 megawatts of electricity, a power potential that has been eyed hungrily by the rest of the continent for decades.  The DRC’s total hydropower potential is estimated to be the third largest in the world after China and Russia.

While DRC’s chaotic governance, however, has stymied forward progress on the project for years, the Grand Inga vision received an important boost last year when the South African government agreed to purchase a substantial amount of power produced by Inga III.

The dam is now supposed to be built by 2020 and, according to Congolese government estimates from November, would produce around 4,800 MW of electricity. Of this, 2,500 MW would go to South Africa while another 1,300 MW would be earmarked for use by mines and related industry in the province of Katanga.

Construction is scheduled to begin by 2016. The Bank will rely heavily on its private-arm facility, the International Finance Corporation, to help DRC’s government establish an autonomous Inga Development Authority which will, among other things, be charged with deciding on construction bids and negotiating purchasing deals for the electricity generated by the dam.

According to Peter Bosshard, IR’s director, the selection of the contractor to build the dam could prove problematic.

He told IPS three consortia are currently in the running: SinoHydro and China Three Gorges Corporation from China, a Canadian-Korean consortium, and a third made up primarily of Spanish companies.

But one of the Canadian companies involved has been barred from receiving any support from by the Bank for past corruption, while SinoHydro has been suspended pending the outcome of a corruption investigation by the Bank, according to Bosshart.

“This means that, unless the DRC government picks the Spanish consortium, it won’t be able to get any World Bank Group loans for the actual construction,” he noted.

That could be a problem. According to Bernard Sheahan, the IFC’s director of infrastructure and natural resources, “the level of investment for Inga 3 BC is so high that neither the public sector nor the private sector alone could finance the full cost of development of the project.”

Huge hydro-electric dams have long been a controversial issue at the Bank which, for most of its history, was an enthusiastic supporter.

Protests by local communities and international human rights and environmental groups that documented the massive displacements and environmental damage these mega-dams often caused – not to mention their failure to deliver electricity to those most in need – resulted in a halt in approving new projects in the mid-1990s.

Indeed, while the 50-year-old Inga 1 and 2 dams were supposed to provide power to much of the country, only ten percent of DRC households have electricity.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Congress passed a landmark new law requiring the U.S. Treasury, which represents Washington on the Bank’s board, to vote against multilateral funding for large-scale hydro-electric projects in developing countries.

The U.S. representative abstained on the vote Thursday, according to knowledgeable sources.

Earlier this month, four researchers at Oxford Unversity Said Business School released a major study based on data from 245 large dams built since 1934 in 65 different countries.

It found that they suffered average cost overruns of more than 90 percent and delays of nearly 50 percent inflicting huge additional costs in inflation and debt service for the mostly public entities that built them.

“Proponents of mega-dams tend to focus on rare stories of success in order to get their pet projects approved,” said Atif Ansar, one of the Oxford researchers. “If leaders of emerging economies are truly interested in the welfare of their citizens, they are better off laying grand visions of mega-dams aside.”

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Climate Change Triggers Disease Risk in Tanzaniahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/climate-change-triggers-disease-risk-tanzania/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-triggers-disease-risk-tanzania http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/climate-change-triggers-disease-risk-tanzania/#comments Tue, 18 Feb 2014 09:15:18 +0000 Kizito Makoye http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131726 Residents in low-lying areas in Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, are potentially at risk of contracting waterborne diseases as heavy rains, which started last week, continue to pound the city. Early this month, the Tanzania Meteorological Agency (TMA) announced that Dar es Salaam was among the areas in northern and southern Tanzania that would […]

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The Jangwani slum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, was flooded during the heavy rain at the end of 2013 and early this year. Credit: Muhidin Issa Michuzi/IPS

By Kizito Makoye
DAR ES SALAAM, Feb 18 2014 (IPS)

Residents in low-lying areas in Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, are potentially at risk of contracting waterborne diseases as heavy rains, which started last week, continue to pound the city.

Early this month, the Tanzania Meteorological Agency (TMA) announced that Dar es Salaam was among the areas in northern and southern Tanzania that would receive above-average rainfall and strong winds in the coming weeks, and urged residents to take precautions.

Tanzania’s eastern Morogoro Region was also affected in January as flash floods displaced over 10,000 people and damaged infrastructure such as roads and houses.

In Jangwani and  Kigogo, administrative areas in Dar es Salaam, residents who refused to heed the government’s call to vacate the area are being affected by the current downpour.

“I couldn’t sleep last night, the rain resulted in a lot of water here,” resident Maulid Ali told IPS.

Local residents from Kigogo told IPS that the water had become a serious health hazard because people are emptying their pit latrines into the flooded water, which resulted in human excreta spreading through the area.

“We drink water from the well but when it rains it is difficult to know if it is safe,” Riziki Mwenda, a resident of Kigogo, told IPS.

Public health experts have cautioned that residents in disaster-prone areas are potentially vulnerable to epidemic diseases.

Dar es Salaam regional commissioner Said Meck Sadick told IPS that waterborne diseases were endemic to the city because some residents did not observe good hygiene.

“We keep on reminding people in low-lying areas to take precautions and observe health regulations such as boiling water and using toilet facilities,” he said.

According to data from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dar es Salaam is among five coastal regions with the highest number of cholera cases with incidents reported almost every year.

But these cases could increase as this East African nation experiences the visible impact of climate change.

A 2011 study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health stated that risks to cholera increase by 15 to 29 percent with a one degree Celsius temperature increase.

Projections by the TMA show that mean annual temperatures here will increase between 2.1 to four degrees Celsius in northern, central and southern Tanzania by 2100.

The agency’s director of Research and Applied Meteorology, Ladislaus Chang’a, told IPS that increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events were likely to continue hitting most parts of the country.

He said that northern and southern Tanzania would experience an increase in rainfall ranging from five to 45 percent, adding that most parts of the country may experience a decrease in rainfall of 10 to 15 percent.

“A rapid increase or decrease of rainfall will hit most parts of the country, causing floods or droughts, which has contributed to malnutrition due to lack of food, increased infectious diseases and scarcity of clean water,” he said.

However, Herbert Kashililah, a technical advisor with global charity Water Aid, told IPS that the increasing number of epidemic diseases related to climate change in Dar es Salaam was largely exacerbated by existing policy gaps and lack of citizen accountability.

“The existing gap between policy and practice is attributed to lack of accountability from principal actors and overlap of authority between local governments and central ministry in enforcing existing laws controlling such diseases,” he said. Tanzania has no policy on climate change.

Kashililah said that public health enforcement should be taken seriously.

“The government should significantly invest in a clean water supply for every city resident but [should] also ensure waste water is properly managed,” he said.

Kashililah said that a majority of households obtain water from boreholes that are contaminated with sewage and sanitation effluents and still did not have access to running water.

The government admitted that communicable diseases still posed a serious public health risk across the country as a whole despite efforts to prevent and control it.

The Minister for Health and Social Welfare Dr. Seif Rashid told IPS that the government was committed to improving the health and well-being of Tanzanians by encouraging the health system to be more responsive to those at risk of contracting waterborne diseases.

“The policy is there and how we implement it very much depends on the funds allocated in the national budget,” he said.

Rashid said that the government would continue its public education campaign through community-based programmes so that people understand and take appropriate measures to prevent themselves from contracting diseases.

He added that the government hoped to improve water supply and sanitation services across the country through its donor-funded Water Sector Development Programme.

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Plugging South Africa’s Post-Apartheid Leakshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/plugging-south-africas-post-apartheid-leaks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=plugging-south-africas-post-apartheid-leaks http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/plugging-south-africas-post-apartheid-leaks/#respond Wed, 12 Feb 2014 08:35:03 +0000 Melany Bendix http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131447 The South African government’s earnest rush to provide water to millions of people post-apartheid may have jeopardised its attempts to provide services to the country in the long run. South Africa is the 30th driest country in the world, yet it is one of the fastest-growing water consumers. According to the National Treasury’s 2012 Budget […]

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Queenie Magubane, 38, of Khayelitsha township in Cape Town, South Africa, uses a bucket to collect the water that constantly leaks from her outdoor tap. It is one of thousands of faulty taps across South Africa. Credit: Melany Bendix/IPS

By Melany Bendix
CAPE TOWN, Feb 12 2014 (IPS)

The South African government’s earnest rush to provide water to millions of people post-apartheid may have jeopardised its attempts to provide services to the country in the long run.

South Africa is the 30th driest country in the world, yet it is one of the fastest-growing water consumers. According to the National Treasury’s 2012 Budget Review, demand for the scarce resource is increasing so rapidly that it is set to outstrip supply as early as 2030.

But this nation is in a race against time to plug the holes in its leaky water supply system, which is allowing so much of the crucial resource to drip away that the country’s water security is now at risk.“Without water we cannot achieve our government’s priorities, such as infrastructure development and food security.” -- Rejoice Mabudafhasi, deputy minister of the DWEA

Jay Bhagwan, executive manager for water use and waste management  at the Water Research Commission (WRC), said that this water wastage was a natural result of the government having to quickly extend the water supply to a large majority of the country’s 51 million people post-democracy.

“After 1994 we had to give more than half the population access to water. This obviously put a lot of pressure on resources and capacity,” he told IPS.

“Maintenance just wasn’t a high priority and we are starting to see the consequences of that now.”

A 2013 WRC study revealed that South Africa is losing an average of 1.58 billion kilo-litres of water a year — the equivalent of 4.3 million swimming pools of water. The water wastage, attributed mostly to leaky pipes and theft, represents more than a third of all municipal water.

Shortage of Skilled Engineers

Kobus van Zyl, associate professor of hydraulic engineering at the University of Cape Town, whose speciality is water distribution systems, agreed that providing water to those who were denied this basic service under apartheid was a contributing factor to the current water woes.

But he argued that the mass exodus of engineers and project managers over the past 20 years was the key reason.

“The huge problem is that we’ve lost a lot of expertise, both on a local level in municipalities and at a national level within the Department of Water Affairs,” he told IPS.

“As a result there is a massive shortage of engineers and project managers, and you simply cannot manage a distribution system properly if you don’t have enough people with the necessary expertise to do so.”

Of the more than 230 municipalities in South Africa, 79 have no civil engineers or technicians and only 45 have civil engineers, according to a report by Allyson Lawless, a former president of the South African Institute of Civil Engineering.

To illustrate how extreme the situation is, Lawless’ report pointed out that there are more civil engineers serving the zoo infrastructure in Auckland, New Zealand, than in 86 percent of South Africa’s municipalities.

Water Loss Affects Development

Aside from costing the South African economy a hefty 642 million dollars a year, widespread water wastage jeopardises the country’s socio-economic development.

“Water is not just part of the economy, it is the lifeblood of our economy,” Christine Colvin, senior manager for the World Wide Fund for Nature’s freshwater programme in South Africa, told IPS.

“Expecting to maintain the economy and grow it without water is like expecting someone to carry on living after draining all the blood from their body.”

Rejoice Mabudafhasi, deputy minister of the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs (DWEA), agreed.

“Without water we cannot achieve our government’s priorities, such as infrastructure development and food security,” Mabudafhasi told IPS.

She added that water shortages would derail the government’s plans to deliver this basic service to hundreds of impoverished communities throughout South Africa, who still do not have access to clean, running water.

Van Zyl pointed out that South Africa’s poorest areas are likely to be hardest hit by water shortages.

“The drier parts of the country will be the first to experience shortages. These are commonly areas where the previous ‘homelands’ were established, which are still radically impoverished,” he said.

He added that “warning signs are now very clear in South Africa — demand will outstrip supply unless immediate action is taken.”

It seems South African President Jacob Zuma has taken heed of these warning signs by asking DWEA’s minister Edna Molewa to reduce water loss by 50 percent in 2014.

Her department has stepped up its War on Leaks project, which focuses on getting communities and municipalities to work together to report and fix leaks.

As to whether the DWEA’s efforts will ensure South Africa has enough water for the future, van Zyl said the initiatives are positive but more needed to be done in order to turn around the crisis.

“With what is currently being done, the best we can hope for is to plug a few holes. We need to do more because time’s running out.”

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DRC Mega-Dam to Be Funded by Private Sector, Groups Chargehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/drc-mega-dam-funded-private-sector-groups-charge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drc-mega-dam-funded-private-sector-groups-charge http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/02/drc-mega-dam-funded-private-sector-groups-charge/#respond Tue, 11 Feb 2014 01:58:55 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=131424 Watchdog groups here are warning that a deal has been struck that would see Chinese investors fund a massive, contentious dam on the Congo River, the first phase of a project that could eventually be the largest hydroelectric project in the world. Discussions around the Inga III dam proposal, in the Democratic Republic of Congo […]

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The Inga III dam would be the first in a series of hydroelectric installations along the Congo River, collectively referred to as the Grand Inga project. Credit: alaindg/GNU license

By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Feb 11 2014 (IPS)

Watchdog groups here are warning that a deal has been struck that would see Chinese investors fund a massive, contentious dam on the Congo River, the first phase of a project that could eventually be the largest hydroelectric project in the world.

Discussions around the Inga III dam proposal, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have been taking place in some form for decades. They have picked up speed over the past year, however, under the auspices of the World Bank, the Washington-based development funder.“Handing the project over to a private investor will make it even less likely the country’s poor people would benefit from the project.” -- Peter Bosshard

On Tuesday, the bank’s board of directors were to have voted on an initial 73-million-dollar loan for the project, to be offered through the International Development Association (IDA), the institution’s programme for the world’s poorest countries. Last week, however, that vote was abruptly postponed.

Now, civil society groups are reporting that the project may be going forward instead under the World Bank’s private-sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), with the backing of Chinese investors. Yet critics, who have long worried about the local social and environmental impact of the Inga project, worry that greater involvement by the private sector will result in skewed prioritisation of beneficiaries.

“Handing the project over to a private investor will make it even less likely the country’s poor people would benefit from the project,” Peter Bosshard, policy director for International Rivers, an advocacy group, said Monday.

“The IFC deal was arranged behind closed doors without any accountability to the DRC parliament, the World Bank’s board of directors, or civil society … Non-transparent deals such as the Inga 3 Dam are the best recipe for deepening corruption in the DRC. They will not strengthen the public accountability that is necessary for social and economic development.”

Citing multiple sources within the bank, Bosshard says the decision to change the Inga III funding modality appears to have been made between high-level officials from the World Bank, the IFC and USAID, the U.S. government’s main foreign-aid arm, reportedly bypassing the bank’s board of directors. Thus far, none of these institutions have publicly confirmed any deal.

“The World Bank Group is fully committed to supporting the Inga III hydropower project, which has the potential to improve the lives of millions of Africans,” a bank spokesperson told IPS in a statement. “We postponed presenting to our Board a Technical Assistance package related to the design of the project’s operation, but the project has not been cancelled, and our commitment to Inga III is unchanged.”

Primary beneficiaries

As currently envisioned, the Inga III dam would be the first in a series of hydroelectric installations along the Congo River, collectively referred to as the Grand Inga project. This would include a single 145 metre dam, which would flood an area known as the Bundi Valley, home to around 30,000 people.

The full project could provide up to 40,000 megawatts of electricity, a power potential that has been eyed hungrily by the rest of the continent for decades. While DRC’s chaotic governance has stymied forward progress on the project for years, the Grand Inga vision received an important boost last year when the South African government agreed to purchase a substantial amount of power produced by Inga III.

The 12-billion-dollar dam is now supposed to be built by 2020 and, according to Congolese government estimates from November, would produce around 4,800 MW of electricity. Of this, 2,500 MW would go to South Africa while another 1,300 MW would be earmarked for use by mines and related industry in the province of Katanga.

“There is little indication that the dam development schemes underway would address the issue of access to electricity for the population at-large; industrial users stand to be the primary beneficiaries,” Maurice Carney, executive director of Friends of the Congo, an advocacy group here, told IPS.

“Only 10 percent of Congo’s population has access to electricity and the situation is even worse for rural population, where only 1 percent has access to electricity. For a country like the DRC that is endowed with a plethora of alternative energy options, smaller-scale renewable energy technologies would be the best way forward.”

Carney and others are calling for a cumulative assessment of the Grand Inga scheme, to include study of all social and environmental impacts. Indeed, these have been longstanding concerns, but now some development advocates worry that greater private sector involvement in the Inga III project will further exacerbate such issues.

“We have questions about whether the scheme can deliver any development at all in the hands of the private sector,” Joshua Klemm, manager of the Africa programme at the Bank Information Center, a watchdog group here that focuses on the World Bank, told IPS.

“For good or bad, if this project belongs to the Congolese government, there’s at least some hope to expand electricity access in the country. That would go out the window if we’re talking about a purely private sector project.”

Duelling U.S. stances

As the Inga III project picked up momentum in recent months, USAID too expressed its interest in the proposal. The agency’s administrator, Rajiv Shah, visited the Inga III dam site in mid-December, and stated that the proposal could be added to a new, large-scale initiative by the United States to significantly increase electrification across Africa.

Although USAID was unable to comment for this story by deadline, any involvement by the agency in brokering a deal with the IFC would be interesting. Just last month, the U.S. Congress passed a landmark new law requiring the U.S. Treasury to formally vote against multilateral funding for large-scale hydroelectric projects in developing countries.

The new provisions, contained in a huge appropriations bill funding the federal government, impact both on bilateral U.S. funding through agencies such as USAID, as well as on the significant contributions that the United States provides to multilateral development institutions, particularly the World Bank. (The U.S. Treasury was unable to comment by deadline.)

“Under the [appropriations] language, the United States will have to oppose the Inga III dam at the IFC as much as it would have had to do this if it were an IDA project,” International Rivers’ Bosshard told IPS. “There’s no difference there, but it is ironic that the USAID administrator would have pushed the deal.”

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The Limpopo River basin; Many rivers but not enough waterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/limpopo-river-basin-many-rivers-enough-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=limpopo-river-basin-many-rivers-enough-water http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/limpopo-river-basin-many-rivers-enough-water/#respond Mon, 27 Jan 2014 13:13:16 +0000 Ish Mafundikwa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=130823 There are many rivers in the Limpopo basin which is shared by Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa but some of the communities within it are dealing with serious water scarcity. 

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Limpopo dry riverbed at the Zanzibar border crossing into South Africa from Botswana. Credit: Ish mafundikwa

Limpopo dry riverbed at the Zanzibar border crossing into South Africa from Botswana. Credit: Ish mafundikwa

By Ish Mafundikwa
HARARE, Jan 27 2014 (IPS)

There are many rivers in the Limpopo basin which is shared by Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa but some of the communities within it are dealing with serious water scarcity. http://traffic.libsyn.com/ipslatamradio07/limpopofinal1.mp3

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Limpopo River basin irrigation water under-utilized in Zimbabwehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/limpopo-river-basin-irrigation-water-utilized-zimbabwe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=limpopo-river-basin-irrigation-water-utilized-zimbabwe http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/limpopo-river-basin-irrigation-water-utilized-zimbabwe/#respond Sun, 05 Jan 2014 09:10:45 +0000 Ish Mafundikwa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=129898 Ish Mafundikwa reports that only a fraction of the water available for irrigation in the Limpopo River basin in Zimbabwe is being used.

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By Ish Mafundikwa
Gwanda, Zimbabwe, Jan 5 2014 (IPS)

Ish Mafundikwa reports that only a fraction of the water available for irrigation in the Limpopo River basin in Zimbabwe is being used.

http://traffic.libsyn.com/ipslatamradio07/limpopo.mp3

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For Better or For Worse – Fracking in the Rustic Karoohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/for-better-or-for-worse-fracking-in-the-rustic-karoo/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=for-better-or-for-worse-fracking-in-the-rustic-karoo http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/for-better-or-for-worse-fracking-in-the-rustic-karoo/#respond Mon, 25 Nov 2013 07:23:10 +0000 Gavin du Venage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=129045 To the casual passer-by, Petrus Kabaliso and his wife Cynthia present a disarmingly rustic sight, seated as they are under the shade of a date palm at a truck stop in the scorching Karoo desert, in South Africa’s Northern Cape province, a battered umbrella held jauntily over their heads. “We find it very hard to […]

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Quiet Karoo towns could be changed forever should gas exploration go ahead. Credit: Gavin du Venage/IPS

By Gavin du Venage
KAROO, South Africa, Nov 25 2013 (IPS)

To the casual passer-by, Petrus Kabaliso and his wife Cynthia present a disarmingly rustic sight, seated as they are under the shade of a date palm at a truck stop in the scorching Karoo desert, in South Africa’s Northern Cape province, a battered umbrella held jauntily over their heads.

“We find it very hard to live here,” Petrus, 59, tells IPS. “We find old metal, and sometimes the trucks that stop here leave bottles in the rubbish. We can change this for money, and buy pap [maize meal porridge] and sugar.”

Colesburg is more prosperous than many little Karoo towns. Trucks and cars ferrying people from up country to the coast make regular use of it as a stopover. Bed-and-breakfasts line the streets, with vacancy signs on display. But its wealth is relative: like most towns in the Karoo, the very lack of economic prospects is what has kept it away from the attention of developers.

But all this could change. There are plans to exploit potentially vast shale gas reserves under the earth here through hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

According to a study by financial research organisation Econometrix on behalf of energy multinational Shell, up to 480 trillion cubic feet of gas is available. To put this into context, Mossgas – the gas-to-liquids refinery situated on South Africa’s south coast – has provided five percent of the country’s fuel needs over the last 20 years using only one trillion cubic feet over this time, according to PetroSA, the refinery’s operators.

According to Econometrix, to exploit just 10 percent of the gas will create 700,000 new jobs.

But it has generated substantial controversy, with much of the debate focussing on how it will alter the Karoo landscape, some 400,000 square kilometres in central South Africa, which many believe should be left unspoiled.

“It will be better for all of us,” Ricardo Josephs, a petrol pump attendant in the picturesque town of Graaf Reinette, two hours from Colesburg, tells IPS. “Creating new jobs will mean my friends and family can come home. Everybody here is losing people who move to Cape Town or Jo’burg looking for work. Our people are all over and they don’t come back.”

Josephs concedes that the industrialisation of the Karoo may change its nature. “It will be a problem for the rich guys, the farm guys. They don’t want it to change. But for me, and the guys in the street, it will mean more jobs and better pay.”

Around 63 percent of the people in the Karoo live on or below the poverty line, Professor Anthony Leiman, an environmental economist at the University of Cape Town, tells IPS. “The finding of gas is like the discovery of gold all over again. It will profoundly change the future of the country.”

He notes that such large resources will inevitably disrupt life in the Karoo. In North Dakota, a sparsely-populated state of the United States, the discovery of large-scale gas reservoirs has turned life in many small towns upside down. The flood of male gas workers has seen towns swell to 10 times their population, and a rise in social problems from drug abuse to prostitution.

So far, much of the criticism has focused on possible environmental contamination, particularly of the Karoo’s scarce groundwater. The fracking process involves pumping thousands of litres into fissures kilometres below the ground. This fractures the rock, allowing gas to seep into a central well that carries it to the surface. In the U.S., incidents of badly prepared wells have led to groundwater contamination.

But Leiman dismisses this as a significant threat. “Poverty is a far greater hazard to the environment than fracking.”

Not so, counters the Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG), the main lobbyist organisation campaigning against the extraction of shale gas. The organisation claims the long-term consequences, particularly water pollution, will fall hardest on the poor.

Up to 20 million litres of water are needed per well in the fracturing process, says TKAG, which will put the gas companies in competition with locals for an already scarce resource.

A bigger issue, say opponents of the process, is possible pollution of the water table. The water injected into underground wells is laced with chemicals to aid the process. This, say critics of the technology, risks contaminating existing ground water reserves. Elsewhere in the world contamination has led to illnesses in humans and cattle, especially due to BTEX chemicals – a group of chemicals derived from petroleum – known for causing endocrine disruption and cancer, says TKAG.

In September, South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa declared fracking a “controlled activity”, effectively compelling gas companies to obtain a separate licence from her department. This will go some way to controlling water use by companies in the area, but critics are unlikely to be satisfied with this.

The TKAG also takes issue with the social disruption gas extraction will bring. Jeannie le Roux, the TKAG’s director of operations, tells IPS the experience in shale gas rich areas in the U.S. has been severe social disruption, a point Leiman agrees with.

Alcoholism, drug abuse, prostitution and social vices are quick to follow where young men with money, and not a whole lot to spend it on, are found.

“The social impact on a boom town brings lots of problems,” Le Roux says. “And the advantages it brings don’t last. Mining is a boom-bust activity. When the boom ends, the area is left with surplus labour.”

Although jobs will doubtlessly be created, Le Roux questions the benefits to affected communities. “History shows that the riches of mining seldom reach the people on the ground. Instead they end up with companies, and when the resource runs out, they depart, leaving the environmental degradation that local communities have to live with.”

It need not be this way, says Chris Nissen, chairman of the Karoo Shale Gas Community Forum, set up to represent the region’s poor in the fracking debate. The organisation was established a year ago to counter what he calls the “voice of the wealthy” who are fighting development of the region, Nissan tells IPS.

Nissen believes that vigorous enforcement of South Africa’s environmental laws can protect the landscape; and proper planning for the influx of migrant workers that could swamp small towns would ensure many potential problems could be averted.

“The Karoo is beautiful, but it is also a very sad place. In winter, you see children walking to school bare without shoes, through the frost.”

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Different Water Fortunes for Batswana in Limpopo Basinhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/different-water-fortunes-for-batswana-in-limpopo-basin/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=different-water-fortunes-for-batswana-in-limpopo-basin http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/different-water-fortunes-for-batswana-in-limpopo-basin/#respond Tue, 05 Nov 2013 15:32:45 +0000 Ish Mafundikwa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128618 Botswana is a very dry country but there are places where there is enough water for irrigation. There are also places in the Limpopo basin where even water to drink is difficult to get.

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By Ish Mafundikwa
Selibe Pikwe, Nov 5 2013 (IPS)

Botswana is a very dry country but there are places where there is enough water for irrigation. There are also places in the Limpopo basin where even water to drink is difficult to get.

http://traffic.libsyn.com/ipslatamradio07/botsfinal.mp3

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Zambezi River Authority Working to Avoid Kariba Mistakes at Batokahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2013/10/zambezi-river-authority-working-to-avoid-kariba-mistakes-at-batoka/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zambezi-river-authority-working-to-avoid-kariba-mistakes-at-batoka http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/10/zambezi-river-authority-working-to-avoid-kariba-mistakes-at-batoka/#respond Thu, 31 Oct 2013 13:59:30 +0000 Ish Mafundikwa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128518 Tens of thousands of people were forcibly moved from their homes to make way for the Kariba Dam almost 60 years ago. A new Hydroelectric Scheme is being proposed at Batoka upstream from Kariba and the Zambezi River Authority is  working to ensure that the lives of those in the vicinity are not overly disrupted. […]

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By Ish Mafundikwa
Batoka Gorge, Oct 31 2013 (IPS)

Tens of thousands of people were forcibly moved from their homes to make way for the Kariba Dam almost 60 years ago. A new Hydroelectric Scheme is being proposed at Batoka upstream from Kariba and the Zambezi River Authority is  working to ensure that the lives of those in the vicinity are not overly disrupted.

http://traffic.libsyn.com/ipslatamradio07/bat.mp3

 

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Power Struggle Rises Over Tanzania’s Pangani Riverhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2013/10/power-struggle-rises-over-tanzanias-pangani-river/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=power-struggle-rises-over-tanzanias-pangani-river http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/10/power-struggle-rises-over-tanzanias-pangani-river/#comments Thu, 24 Oct 2013 08:11:32 +0000 Kizito Makoye http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128330 This is the last in a three-part series on Tanzania’s Pangani River Basin

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(l – r) Residents of Hale township Jumanne Mazimbu, Rodrick Nzowa and Said Ngonyani negotiate their way on the muddy Pangani River in a canoe. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS.

By Kizito Makoye
PANGANI, Tanzania, Oct 24 2013 (IPS)

As farmers and herders fight over dwindling water levels in the Pangani River Basin in northeastern Tanzania, a new dispute is emerging between farmers and the state-run power utility firm over this precious resource.

The Tanzania Electric Supply Company or TANESCO manages three hydropower plants located on the Pangani River near Muheza district, which are meant to provide 17 percent of the country’s electricity.

Subira Mgalu, the Muheza district commissioner, told IPS that conflict was rife between farmers and TANESCO, particularly in downstream areas where the hydropower plants are located. She said that the government was trying to “find a lasting solution” to the dispute.

“Insufficient water has been the main source of the clashes between irrigators and TANESCO, but we have tried to use wisdom to resolve them by ensuring that the available resources are shared equally between the parties,” Mgalu said without elaborating further. This East African nation’s water policy does not exclusively grant water rights to any agency and considers water a national resource that should be shared equally by all Tanzanians.

For the last four years, northeastern Tanzania has been experiencing a drought that locals say is the worst to have ever hit the region. Thousands of farmers and herders who earn a living here have been affected.

Jumanne Mujuni, a councilor from Mombo town, which is located a few kilometres from the Hale hydropower station in Muheza district, told IPS that the drought has pushed many to the brink as they compete with TANESCO for dwindling water supplies. He added that many locals are now embroiled in disputes with the state-run utility.

“All these problems that we face are rooted in the drought. There were hardly any [problems] when there was enough water in the river,” he said.

Hydropower from the Pangani River, which has a capacity to provide 17 percent or about 97 megawatts (MW) of the country’s electricity demand– enough to light 100,000 homes – is experiencing generation output of less than 30 percent due to insufficient water. This has caused a deficit on the national grid.

TANESCO has blamed the farmers for overusing water for irrigation without bearing in mind that the river’s flow must be maintained to enable the hydropower plants to operate.

“Those activities are straining water supply to the production facilities. We have often experienced inadequate water flow, which is below the minimum mark required to run the generating turbines effectively,” Danstan Mramba, the TANESCO manager who oversees the Pangani hydropower stations, told IPS.

He explained that the New Pangani Falls and Hale hydropower plants had capacity to produce 21 MW and 68 MW respectively but were now only able to produce 9 MW and 32 MW respectively.

Director of Water Resources Protection at the ministry of water, Naomi Lupimo, told IPS that the traditional furrow irrigation schemes used by small-scale farmers in the upper Pangani basin were the major source of the dispute as they used water inefficiently.

“These people have probably forgotten their traditional ways of conserving water sources, that’s why they use it haphazardly as if there is no tomorrow. They must be reminded that the water belongs to the state and everybody has the right to it.

“In the past, traditional furrow irrigation was concentrated in the highlands. But as more people keep coming into the basin, this system has spread to the lowlands, putting enormous pressure on water resources,” Lupimo said.

She explained that in a bid to protect water sources, the government would, among other things, start charging for the resource in some areas.

Smallholder farmers, however, view this move as a deliberate effort to safeguard TANESCO’s interests. Some told IPS that their share of the water was not adequate as TANESCO was “too selfish” to share the water with indigenous people.

“We have lived in this area all our life. How come today some people point an accusing finger blaming us of encroaching on water sources?” Mwamedi Jecha, a farmer at Hale village in Muheza district, told IPS.

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Tanzania’s Coastal Communities Forced to Drink Seawaterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2013/10/tanzanias-costal-communities-forced-to-drink-seawater/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tanzanias-costal-communities-forced-to-drink-seawater http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/10/tanzanias-costal-communities-forced-to-drink-seawater/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 07:36:49 +0000 Kizito Makoye http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128283 This is the second in a three-part series on Tanzania’s Pangani River Basin

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Pangani Basin Water Board officials Arafa Maggidi (green shirt) and Lillian Mkongo (seated) collected water samples to measure salinity at one of the tributaries of Pangani River in September 2013. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

By Kizito Makoye
PANGANI, Tanzania, Oct 22 2013 (IPS)

The freshwater drinking supply of the coastal town of Pangani in northeast Tanzania is becoming increasingly contaminated as salt water steadily seeps in from the Indian Ocean.

The 500 km Pangani River and underground aquifers are the main sources of drinking water for thousands of residents in Pangani town, located about 400km north of the capital, Dar es Salaam. Over the last few decades, the rising ocean has been siphoning away freshwater and leaking salt water into aquifers and wells.

Dwindling rainfall has also made it difficult to replenish freshwater supplies. But Pangani town residents tell IPS that some underground wells that were previously resilient to the seeping salt water have now been contaminated.

“The rate at which dissolved salt is leaking into freshwater sources is quite alarming, we have to be extra-vigilant to monitor this situation,” Hamza Sadiki, a researcher with Pangani Basin Water Board tells IPS. He says most water sources have been contaminated, leaving people with no other option but to drink salty water.“It’s a pity that most people drink salty water whose salinity exceeds acceptable standards, but we simply can’t tell them don’t drink it.” -- Mohamed Hamis, a water engineer with the Pangani Town district authority

Scientists have linked the growing problem partially to climate change. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, as sea levels rise, water from the ocean will inundate wetlands and other low-lying lands, intensify flooding and increasing the salinity of rivers and groundwater tables.

According to a 2011 study titled “Economics of climate change in Tanzania”, published by the Tanzania government in collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, changing weather patterns in this East African nation will make its coastal communities more vulnerable to rising sea levels.

Already, many along the coast have been forced to drink water with high levels of soluble salt and many are bracing for a bleak future as they desperately wait for the government to improve the quality of their water.

“Salt water is a huge problem here, but we drink it anyway since fresh water has become scarce. All the wells are supplying salt water – we need help,” Amran Shamte, a 65-year-old local resident tells IPS. He recalls his school days in the 1960s when crocodiles were commonly seen close to the river mouth. He says that today they have moved further upstream as they cannot withstand the salt water seeping into their freshwater supply.

According to the World Health Organisation, the acceptable level of dissolved salts in freshwater from lakes, rivers and ground water is from 20 to 800 milligrams per litre (mg/L).

But water samples taken by researchers from the Pangani Basin Water Board show that the total soluble salt levels downstream of the Pangani River are far beyond acceptable standards at 2,000 mg/L.

“It is for this reason that the government decided to set its own standards of salt water to enable people in coastal communities to drink this water,” Arafa Maggid, an engineer from Pangani Basin Water Board tells IPS.

Sabas Kimboka, a nutritionist from the Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre, tells IPS that drinking salt water over a long period of time could potentially be hazardous to human health since salt dehydrates the body.

“There is no safe amount of seawater to drink, the salt makes you more dehydrated and requires you to drink more fresh water [that] you probably don’t have,” he explains.

Mohamed Hamis, a water engineer with the Pangani Town district authority, tells IPS that salt water intrusion has gone 10 km upstream of the river, making it difficult for the authority to supply fresh water, especially during high tide. The town authority now pumps water only during low tide and plans to move the pump further upstream, he says.

“Some of these villages are very close to the ocean, and the water table is already deeply percolated with dissolving salts,” Hamis says. They have not yet conducted a census to establish how many people are affected.

He adds that the government is considering hiring experts to drill salt water barrier wells to protect underground aquifers from contamination, but this project will depend on the availability of funds.

According to Hamis, in some villages two out of three large underground wells are highly contaminated by saline intrusion. As a result some residents have been forced to travel longer distances to find fresh water.

To help stem this growing problem, the government is encouraging local communities who live close to the Indian Ocean to move further inland where water sources are less contaminated. But many say they cannot afford to move anywhere since they do not have the means to do so.

“It’s a pity that most people drink salty water whose salinity exceeds acceptable standards, but we simply can’t tell them don’t drink it,” Hamis says, showing his concern for the government’s decision to raise the acceptable standards of water salinity beyond international norms.

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Conflicts Over Water Rise in Tanzaniahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2013/10/conflicts-over-water-rise-in-tanzania/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conflicts-over-water-rise-in-tanzania http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/10/conflicts-over-water-rise-in-tanzania/#comments Fri, 18 Oct 2013 08:51:17 +0000 Kizito Makoye http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=128250 This is the first in a three-part series on Tanzania’s Pangani River Basin

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(l-r) Jumanne Kikumbi, the chairman of Langoni village; Hamza Sadiki, an official from Pangani Basin Water Board; and Joseph Mwaimu walk on a muddy section of a dried Pangani River bed. Credit: Kizito Makoye/IPS

By Kizito Makoye
PANGANI, Tanzania, Oct 18 2013 (IPS)

Conflicts over water are increasing in the sprawling Pangani River Basin in northeastern Tanzania as farmers and herders jostle for dwindling water resources in the face of climate change. Over the past decade, Maasai pastoralists from the northern areas of Moshi and Arusha have been streaming towards the basin with tens of thousands of their cattle in search of water and grazing pasture.

Hafsa Mtasiwa, the Pangani district commissioner, told IPS that the Maasais’ traditional land was strained by overuse of water resources and overgrazing. She said in the last three years 2,987 herders with 87,1321 cows and 98,341 goats moved into the basin’s low land, destroying arable land.

“This issue should have been resolved a long time ago had there been clear demarcation." -- Omar Kibwana, a local government official

She said that although the government of this East African nation was trying to control the influx into the basin, a lack of policy coordination between relevant regional authorities made this difficult.

“This is a very complex issue whose solution requires a general consensus between the fighting groups. You don’t simply chase away cattle keepers. We must educate them on the need to respect the rights of the others,” she said.

The Pangani River Basin, which sprawls across 48,000 square kilometres, is already stressed as it faces continued demands on its water resources and ecosystems.

According to the Water and Nature Initiative of the International Union of Conservation of Nature, the basin has a population of 3.4 million people, “80 percent of whom rely on small-scale farming. Ecosystems are in decline and, with aquatic resources supplying up to 25 percent of household income in parts of the basin, the poorest are those most affected by declining water levels.”

Statistics from the Tanzania Meteorological Agency (TMA) show rainfall patterns across many parts of the Pangani River Basin have drastically dropped in the past 10 years. Some areas that recorded 990 mm of rainfall a decade ago receive almost half of this now.

“The impacts of climate change are very difficult to foresee, they keep changing from time to time. It could start with drought then abruptly switch to floods, the important thing is for the people to adapt,” TMA’s director general Agnes Kijazi told IPS by phone.

What little water there is, is mostly used for irrigation and electricity generation. The Clim-A-Net project, which aims to develop scientific knowledge on climate change, states on its website that “almost 90 percent of the surface flow in the Pangani Basin is used for irrigation and hydropower generation.”

“We are spending sleepless nights just finding water, the little we get we feed our cattle. We have lost so many cows … The people here should also understand the situation we are in,” Vincent Ole Saidim, a Maasai youth living in Pangani, told IPS.

But farmers here complain about the number of cattle that enter their fields, destroying crops and irrigation structures in the process.

“These Maasai are very selfish people, they think they are always right, even when they destroy other people’s lives. I can’t bear them, they should go back to where they belong,” Mwasiti, Isinika a farmer in Pangani, told IPS.

Residents from the region told IPS that over the last six months tensions between farmers and herders have been ongoing and many feel that there is no end in sight.

The most recent incident that IPS noted occurred in August in Makenya village, a community of 600 people located about 19 km from the basin’s Pangani Town. According to residents, a scuffle involving farmers and pastoralists ensued when 24 herders attempted to take over the village’s central water source in order to feed their animals. The villagers managed to remove them and no deaths were reported.

However, two years ago in Mbuguni village, which is about 18 km from Pangani Town, four farmers were hacked to death by angry Maasai morans (warriors) as they tried to stop a group of cattle from trampling on their maize seedlings.

Omar Kibwana, a local government official from Mbuguni village, told IPS that conflict was rife because the government was reluctant to create borders separating farmers from pastoralists.

“This issue should have been resolved a long time ago had there been clear demarcation,” he said.

The Pangani Basin Water Board said it was aware of the challenges here.

Arafa Maggidi, an engineer from Pangani Basin Water Authority, told IPS that while climate change was the main reason for the reduced water supply here, other factors such as deforestation, increasing number of livestock, and an expansion of farming activities contributed.

“The threat of climate change and the need to adapt cannot be over emphasised. We are trying our very best to educate the people to change their life styles, they must understand by destroying environment they are preparing for their own suffering,” Maggidi said.

“We strongly believe that successful management of the water resources has to integrate all environmental, economic and social demands,” he said. Going forward, scientists predict increasing temperatures, reduced rainfall and ultimately less water.

According to Pius Yanda, a professor at the University of Dar es Salaam who is also a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a rise of between 1.8 and 3.6 degrees Celsius, decreasing rainfall and increased evaporation in the river basin can be expected before the end of the century.

But as they face an uncertain future, people here recall better times when the river was full and its flow was guaranteed throughout the year.

“The river has lost all its old glory, some of the fish species have also disappeared, how disgusting,” Fundi Mhegema, a villager at Buyuni village in Pangani, told IPS.

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From Toilet to Tap for Water Scarce Cityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2013/10/from-toilet-to-tap-for-water-scarce-city/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=from-toilet-to-tap-for-water-scarce-city http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/10/from-toilet-to-tap-for-water-scarce-city/#comments Tue, 01 Oct 2013 10:33:59 +0000 Brendon Bosworth http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=127653 This is the final story in a three-part series on Kwa-Zulu Natal's Umgeni River

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The Umgeni River system supplies drinking water to about five million people in the city of Durban, South Africa. But demand for water has outstripped supply for the past seven years. Pictured here is Howick Falls, which lies on the Umgeni River. Credit: Brendon Bosworth/IPS

By Brendon Bosworth
KWAZULU-NATAL, South Africa, Oct 1 2013 (IPS)

In a few years, residents of the eThekwini municipality in the port city of Durban in South Africa could be drinking water that was once flushed down their toilets, as authorities are planning to recycle some of the municipality’s sewage and purify it to drinking quality standards.

“We’re going through a crucial water shortage, which is increased by the water demand of eThekwini,” Speedy Moodliar, the municipality’s senior manager of planning for water and sanitation, told IPS.

The municipality relies on the Umgeni river system for water. But demand on the system, which supplies drinking water to about five million people and fuels industry in the economic hubs of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, a town 66 kilometres from the coast, has outstripped supply for the past seven years.

To boost supply in future, the South African government has proposed building a dam with a capacity of 250 million cubic metres on the uMkhomazi river, the third-largest river in KwaZulu-Natal, and transferring water to the Umgeni system.

But this scheme will only be operational by 2024 at the earliest, said Moodliar. “Between now and when the uMkhomazi [project] comes online, [wastewater] re-use will be our mitigation measure.”

In dry countries like Israel, Egypt, and Australia treated wastewater is used for industry, landscaping and agriculture. But worldwide few countries put it directly into their drinking water supplies.

Singapore uses purified wastewater to meet 30 percent of its water needs, although just a small percentage goes to drinking water and the majority is used by industry. Citizens of Windhoek, the capital of South Africa’s arid northwestern neighbour Namibia, have been drinking recycled wastewater for over 40 years.

In 2011 the Beaufort West municipality, which serves close to 50,000 people, began treating its sewage for use as drinking water after a vicious drought, making it the first in South Africa to do so. According to a 2012 World Bank report “The future of water in African cities: why waste water?” few cities in Africa have functioning wastewater treatment plants and “only a small proportion of wastewater is collected, and an even smaller fraction is treated.”

eThekwini municipality plans to upgrade two of its existing, and underperforming, wastewater treatment plants – the KwaMashu and Northern treatment works, Moodliar explained.

To remove contaminants and clean the water to drinking quality standard, a three-stage system that treats effluent through ultra-filtration and reverse osmosis, as well as disinfection by ultraviolet light and chlorine would be used. The treated water would also be stored and tested before being released.

The purified water will be mixed with conventional drinking water at a ratio of 30 percent re-used water to 70 percent conventional, said Moodliar. It will feed the municipality’s northern regions, including Umhlanga, Durban North, Reservoir Hills, and KwaMashu.

Re-using wastewater in this way will add 116 megalitres of tap water to the municipality’s supply daily. This is enough to fill just more than 46 Olympic-size swimming pools. It is roughly 13 percent of the municipality’s current daily consumption, and will provide an estimated seven years of water security.

While it will cost more to produce drinking water through wastewater recycling – about 75 cents per kilolitre compared to 50 cents per kilolitre for conventional treatment – the municipality sees it as “the best fit,” said Moodliar.

The municipality has touted the effectiveness and safety of the proposed system, but there has been opposition to the plan, including the submission of a 5,000-signature petition during the public participation process last year.

Citizens have raised concerns about the safety of drinking the re-used water. “Recycling of toilet water to drinking water is a death sentence to the general public because of health implications,” wrote Jennifer Bohus in an email to Golder Associates, the firm that produced the basic assessment report for the wastewater recycling proposal.

The municipality, however, maintains that the water will be fit to drink.

“The technology is advanced enough that the quality of the water being returned is high,” Graham Jewitt, director of the Centre for Water Resources Research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and chair of water resources management for state-owned Umgeni Water, told IPS. “Many cities all round the world use recycled water.”

“About 14 percent of water use in South Africa is actually water that’s being re-used, most of it indirectly,” Niel van Wyk, chief engineer with the Department of Water Affairs, responsible for strategic water resource planning in KwaZulu-Natal, told IPS.

Citizens opposing the plan also said the municipality, which loses 36 percent of its water annually, largely through leaks and illegal connections, should focus on fixing leaking pipes. Others proposed investment in seawater desalination plants, instead.

The potential for sucking seawater from the Indian Ocean and converting it to freshwater for the region is currently under investigation. But the process of seawater desalination, which involves pumping saltwater at high-pressure through a semi-permeable membrane that retains the salt, and allows water to pass through, remains costly.

Umgeni Water, the state-owned company that is the largest supplier of bulk potable water in KwaZulu-Natal, is doing a feasibility study for two desalination plants: one on the south coast, adjacent to the Lovu River, and one on the north coast near Tongaat, Shami Harichunder, corporate stakeholder manager for Umgeni Water, told IPS.

If built, these plants would be the largest desalination operations in the country, each capable of producing 150 megalitres of water a day. By comparison, the largest desalination plant in South Africa, in Mossel Bay in the Southern Cape, produces a tenth of that amount.

The cost to build one of the proposed plants is as much as 300 million dollars, according to Harichunder. The required technological components, like high-pressure pumps, are expensive, he said.

Desalination plants, however, can be built more quickly than large dams and transfer infrastructure, and also scaled up in future if needed, said the Department of Water Affairs’ van Wyk.

Umgeni Water’s feasibility study is to be completed in December this year. And the feasibility of building desalination plants will be compared to that of the proposal to dam the uMkhomazi river, said Harichunder.

 

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Water Scarcity Could Drive Conflict or Cooperationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2013/09/water-scarcity-could-drive-conflict-or-cooperation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-scarcity-could-drive-conflict-or-cooperation http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/09/water-scarcity-could-drive-conflict-or-cooperation/#comments Mon, 02 Sep 2013 14:59:22 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=127239 When the General Assembly declared 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation (IYWC) three years ago, the U.N.’s highest policy-making body was conscious of the perennial conflicts triggered by competition over one of the world’s most critical finite resources. Current and past water conflicts and marine disputes have included confrontations between Israel and Jordan, India […]

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Refugees dig for water in a dried-up watering hole in Jamam camp, in South Sudan's Upper Nile state. Credit: Jared Ferrie/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 2 2013 (IPS)

When the General Assembly declared 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation (IYWC) three years ago, the U.N.’s highest policy-making body was conscious of the perennial conflicts triggered by competition over one of the world’s most critical finite resources.

Current and past water conflicts and marine disputes have included confrontations between Israel and Jordan, India and Pakistan, Egypt and Ethiopia, Palestine and Israel, and Bolivia, Peru and Chile.

Picking up the cue from the United Nations, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) is focusing its weeklong meeting this year on the theme “Water Cooperation – Building Partnerships.”

The 23rd annual meeting in the Swedish capital, attended by over 2,500 delegates, is due to conclude Friday.

Striking a more optimistic note, SIWI’s Executive Director Torgny Holmgren told IPS historically, water has been a source of cooperation more often than not. Over the past 50 years, he noted, there has been almost 2,000 interactions on transboundary basins of which only seven have involved violence and 70 percent have been cooperative.

“I think the future situation depends very much on our ability to deal with the water demand challenge,” said Holmgren, a former ambassador and head of the Department for Development Policy at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

“If we are able to increase water productivity so that we can free up water resources for protecting our environment, thereby ensuring the sustainability of the supply, and allowing for new users and uses, it will be easy to cooperate,” he said. “If we aren’t able to manage demand, and water management becomes more of a zero-sum exercise, avoiding conflict will be a challenge.”

Irina Bokova, director-general of the Paris-based U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the lead U.N. agency which will oversee IWYC, points out that there are numerous examples in which transboundary waters have proved to be a source of cooperation rather than conflict.

Nearly 450 agreements on international waters were signed between 1820 and 2007. And over 90 international water agreements were drawn up to help manage shared water basins on the African continent, she said in an interview with IPS last March.

According to the London-based WaterAid, nearly 768 million people in the world live without safe water, roughly one in eight people. Some 2.5 billion others live without access to sanitation, about 39 percent of the world’s population.

The U.S. intelligence community has already portrayed a grim scenario for the foreseeable future: ethnic conflicts, regional tensions, political instability and even mass killings.

During the next 10 years, “many countries important to the United States will almost certainly experience water problems – shortages, poor water quality, or floods – that will contribute to the risk of instability and state failure, and increased regional tensions,” stated a National Intelligence Estimate released last year.

In a report released Monday, SIWI says in a world where the population is growing fast and the demand for freshwater is growing along with it, “the fact that we all depend on the same finite water resources is becoming impossible to ignore.

“Cooperation between sectors is fundamental if we are to successfully share and manage our most precious resource,” the group says.

The water problem is not something that can be solved only by experts, says the report titled “Cooperation for a Water Wise World: Partnerships for Sustainable Development.”

“We need to cooperate with actors outside the water sector, to foster collaboration between the various decision-making institutions, between the private, public and civic sectors as well as between actors who work in research, policy and practice,” it says.

“Only through sound and forward-looking partnerships can we achieve a water wise world,” Holmgren noted.

Addressing delegates Monday, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said in a world of population growth and pressures on water resources within and among nations, sound and fair water management “is a huge task and a clear imperative for all of us. And we have no time to waste.”

The 2015 deadline for the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is rapidly approaching. And there is good news in some areas, he said. Since the adoption of the MDGs in the year 2000, global poverty rates have been reduced by half. Two hundred million slum dwellers live better lives. School enrolment rates have increased dramatically.

“And last year we were able to announce that the world had reached the target for access to improved sources of water,” Eliasson said.

But water quality to a large degree still fails to meet basic World Health Organization (WHO) standards, he cautioned.

One of the main factors that negatively affects water quality is the lack of sanitation. The sanitation target is among the most lagging of the MDG Goals, with more than 2.5 billion people around the world without adequate sanitation – more than one-third of humanity, said Eliasson.

Asked if water and sanitation should stand alone as one of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) currently under discussion as part of the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda, Holmgren told IPS, “I think we need a dedicated water SDG that stresses both the productive and protective roles of water resources management and the sustainable of water and sanitation.”

In addition, he said, the intimate connections between water, food, energy, security, biodiversity, and other issues must be spelled out, either in the water goal or in other goals.

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