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Rwanda’s water woes: Not a drop for Kigalians

For local residents in urban areas across Rwanda including the capital Kigali, water is a scare commodity with some city residents not seeing a drop for days on end.The scarcities have persisted to a critical point in recent months that they are becoming more and more concerned.

Although not all areas of the country are affected in the same way, many Kigali residents now say they don’t have water for large portions of the day.

And some areas are adversely affected more than most.

“Look at this water. Would you drink it?” asks Gaudance Mukundente as she shows a glass he has just filled with unhygienic water from neighbouring Nyabarongo river, where brown sediments float, in his home in Mageragere, a suburb of Kigali.

“I have no choice but to use this for consumption purposes and other domestic activites without purifying it,” Mukamazimpaka told APA in an exclusive interview.

Like Mukundente, several residents in several areas in Kigali and its outskirts have been grappling in recent months with water scarcities despite government efforts to address the situation.

“The few  existing piped water and other public standpipes which are established in some urban suburbs have the capacity to supply safe drinking water to a limited number of local residents who can buy limited jerrycans for  drinking and cooking,” the mother of five said with a sigh of resignation.

In  Mageragere like other several suburbs surrounding the Rwandan capital, local residents have became more concerned and discontent as water scarcities reach a critical point.

According to the latest report on Natural Capital Accounting (NCA), reflecting a process of calculating the total stocks and flows of natural resources and services in Rwanda, only 37 percent of local residents have water in their dwellings in Kigali while 36 percent of households use public standpipes.

With the available capacity to supply only 53 percent of the available water
in the country, experts say that Rwanda is facing an annual water deficit of several billion cubic metres it has never experienced, if nothing is done.

Yet official statistics indicate that access to improved drinking water sources increased from 74 percent in 2010 to 85 percent in 2014, the government’s Water and Sanitation Corporation Ltd (WASAC) stress that the leaked water which is current stocked underground has not yet been extracted for consumption.

“Households are reaching an improved drinking water source more quickly than it was before, but it is still challenging for urban settings like in Kigali city, where so many people still rely on established treatment plants for drinking and other sanitation activities,” Dr Omar Munyaneza, a researcher from College of Science and Technology (CST) of the University of Rwanda who conducted the study said.

Reports from Rwanda’s Water and Sanitation Corporation (Wasac) indicate that current Kigali residents presently needs 143,668 cubic meters daily, but Kigali has so far been relying on 95,000 cubic meters.

At times protected spring and piped water at public standpipes represent some major sources of water supply in the country, but researchers argue
that innovations in this area is key, considering that water availability is progressively worsening especially in urban settings like Kigali.

Residents in Kigali have continued to experience water shortages for large parts of the day, but the Rwandan government and its partners announced this year a $300 million fund to tackle the water shortage over a three-year period.

Despite all these major efforts, the three water treatment plants have the limited capacity supply of some 120,000 cubic meters per day to Kigali residents while the demand is currently at 130,000 cubic meters daily

According to officials of the urban water and sanitation department of the Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC), Methode
Rutagungira, other efforts are also being expended in the construction of new
water treatment plants to address long-term water shortages especially in the capital.

“We are expediting several joint projects with our partners and the private sector to realise this mission” Rutagungira told APA in an exclusive

Results from the Fifth Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey conducted in 2014, suggest that less than 2 percent of Rwanda’s rural population have access to water within their homes.

Only 60.5 percent of urban households have access to an improved water source within 200 meters, it said.

“With current rural–urban migration and the rapid growth of urban areas including Kigali the demand for water is growing while the supply of water remains constant,” experts said.

Published on 28.04.2020

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