Rwanda: Clean Water Shortage – a Thorny Problem in Bugesera
By Jean d’Amour Mugabo, originally posted on August 2, 2016
“We last accessed clean water at the nearest taps when President Paul Kagame visited us on July 4th … … .,” she narrates
Walking by a number of lakes in Bugesera District in the morning hours of these school holidays, one can see children swimming as other children and adults climb up and down the hills fetching water from the same lakes. It’s weird!
Wondering what people use that water for, people with jerry cans in their hands will tell you they are collecting water to be used in home activities such as preparing meals, washing the dishes while others shockingly say that it’s their drinking water.
As we, a group of journalists-members of Pax Press (a local NGO), travelled to Rweru Sector for leader-community debates, we called at a small lake in Gashora Sector after seeing swimmers and fetchers in the same lake.
Residents recounted a nightmare of accessing water, leave alone clean water, in the area. “We use this water for everything though you see these children swimming in it. We use it to cook and it is often our drinking water because the clean water taps are very far from home. I walk for an hour to reach this lake but it takes more than an hour and a half walking to the clean water tap,” said a woman holding a jerrycan to fetch water from Rwanda Rushya Lake in Gashora Sector.
She added that they had received clean water taps in her Kayovu Village of Mwenda Cell but taps stopped working two years ago.
“We suffer different diseases like flu, cough, worms, and typhoid as result of this dirty water. We wish the government provides clean water for us,” she pleaded.
Water is an expensive merchandise
While it is usual to buy a 20-litre jerrycan of water at Rw100 in many parts of the country, the same jerry can cost as high as Rwf300 in Rweru Sector, Bugesera Disrtict.
“20 litres of clean water cost Rwf300 and it is rare to find it here. I sell the same quantity for Rwf200 because I fetch it from a lake which is farther, having water which is not as dirty as water of Gaharwa Lake which is nearby,” said one Nyamagabe, adding that the very dirty water from Gaharwa Lake costs Rwf100 per 20 litres.
Emmanuel Serugendo, another water seller in Batima Cell, Rweru Sector, said that it is hard to fetch water from the so-called nearest lake if one does not own a bicycle.
“We have many clients for this water because many people cannot reach the lake. I sell 30 jerry cans per day. A 20-litre jerry can costs Rwf100 and water is used for everything even drinking. We sell all these jerry cans you see and go to fetch more,” he said, adding that he earns at least Rwf2,000 per day in selling water.
Elderly Jeanne Mukakimenyi said she sometimes sleeps hungry and spends two days without taking a descent shower for failing to buy water as she does not have any child to walk miles to the lake.
“Government should save us by supplying water to these taps. I usually pay Rwf100 for 20 litres of unclean water collected from the lake and it causes us diseases. We last accessed clean water at the nearest taps when President Paul Kagame visited us on July 4th ,” she said.
Jean Christophe Rwabuhihi, the executive secretary of Rweru Sector, said that water shortage is a general problem in the entire district and encouraged residents to harvest rain water and use is sparingly.
“We have water infrastructure here but water is very rarely available. We have installed six water tanks in the sector this year and they will help collecting rain water to be used during dry season. However, the government is working on a sustainable solution to have abundant water by December, next year.” he said.
WASAC Working on sustainable solution
Speaking to The Rwanda Focus, Vedaste Tuyisenge, the Bugesera branch manager for Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC), said the water shortage in the district is due to insufficient production capacity, adding that WASAC is working on expanding the production.
“We have the installed capacity for water production of 3,600m3 per day while the district needs at least 12,000m3 . We are working on the expansion of Ngenda water plant and a new plant is under construction. The two projects will add 3,500m3 to the current daily production by April, next year,” he said.
Tuyisenge said that each of the 15 sectors of the district is supplied with water two days per two weeks and water takes two days in pipes from the pump to the farthest areas like Rweru because of the flat nature of the area’s altitude, slowing down water movement.
Statistics from WASAC indicate that the national access to clean water is at 76%, while the government seeks to reach 100% clean water supply, in the entire country, by 2020.
Among the projects to meet that target, include Bugesera and Mutobo water plants, each with a capacity to produce 40,000 cubic metres per day.