By Rose Namayanja Nsereko (MP)
Imagine for a moment our society without water for, say 48 hours. What would we drink and bathe? How would we prepare food? Would our factories operate without water and electricity?
We, simply, would be on the brink of an apocalypse because water sustains all life on earth. Water is, therefore, a treasure that ought to be managed carefully alongside its support to eco-systems.
However, he utility derived from water is also intimately linked to its quality. Thus, through the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) and the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC), government continues to invest a lot in protecting and cleaning Uganda’s water resources.
The importance of the sub-sector is illustrated through steady increases in budget allocations, over time. For instance, funding to the water resources sector increased by 136%, from sh30.61b in Financial Year (FY) 2013/14 to sh72.5b in FY 2014/2015. Funding, specifically for water for production increased from sh20.05b to sh31.97b in this same period.
Yet, our opposition figures, possibly in denial, continue with attempts to swim against the political tide, as they expose their calculated dishonesty. Bizarre recent television footage of antics by FDC presidential candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye at a water point in Nakasongola district illustrated the desperate attempts by his ilk to downplay the steady improvements in our sector over the last three decades.
The ‘Go Forward’ (or is it backwards?) candidate Amama Mbabazi, in Karamoja (possibly for the first time ever), put on a brave face - and promised ‘safe water’ to the locals!
Such trickery and theatrics aside, the NRM juggernaut rolls on. Priority investment is being directed at expanding access to safe water in both urban and rural areas. Household access to safe water has improved from about 16% in 1986 and now stands at 65% in the countryside and 72% in urban areas. In some urban centers like Kampala, actual access to clean water is at over 90%.
Similar success has been documented countrywide with regard to water for production. Construction of water reservoirs has ensured that Uganda’s fresh resources are harnessed to guarantee stable and sustainable water for agricultural and industrial production at all times.
Emphasis is on large-scale dams to reserve sufficient water, especially in parts of the country prone to drought. For instance, Akwera Dam in Otuke district holds up to 1,070,000m3 of water, while Leye dam in Kole district has a capacity of 1,000,000m3.
The Government investment in large water reservoirs in semi-arid Karamoja remains steady, with 36 valley tanks constructed between 2013 and 2015. For instance, Kobebe dam in Moroto district holds 2,300,000m3 of water and Arechet dam in Napak district has a 2,100,000m3 capacity. Longoromit dam in Kaabong district holds 1,400,000 m3 of water and Kawomeri dam in Abim district stores at least 1,200,000m3 of water.
The central and southern cattle corridor has also benefited a lot from the Government’s investment in water infrastructure. 20 valley tanks have been constructed in Kyankwanzi district with a capacity of 74,000m3 of water. 255 small size valley tanks have been constructed in Kiruhura district with a capacity of 528,442m3 of water. 49 small valley tanks have been built in Sembabule, with another 127 constructed in Lyantonde, holding 168,600m3 of water.
10 valley tanks have been constructed in Nakasongola providing 32,000m3 of storage capacity and another five in Nakaseke, holding 15,000m3 of water. In Luwero, 17 valley tanks are in place with a water storage capacity of 39,000m3.
Another 12 valley tanks were constructed in Kiboga and guarantee a water capacity of 14,000m3. Dams rehabilitated and reconstructed elsewhere include Ajamaka in Kumi district, Akwera in Otuke district, Nakakabala in Kiboga district and Kakinga in Sembabule.
To secure food production in Uganda, the NRM government continues also invest in irrigation facilities at strategic locations. We have had schemes like Mubuku in Kasese, Doho in Butaleja and Agoro in Lamwo recently reconstructed. Similar irrigation schemes have been developed in Rakai district and the lower lying parts of Kabale district, for instance Nyakiharo.
The Government investment is structured to cater for all water consumer segments. For instance, in Financial Year (FY) 2014/15, urban water supply had a budget of sh150.7b. This enabled fitting of new pipe water systems in 20 towns around the country.
Relatedly, construction of similar infrastructure is on-going in another 40 small towns and designs have been completed for a further 29 towns. From the enhanced funding, 271 boreholes were drilled across the country between 2013 and 2015.
Natural community spring wells were also protected and 40 gravity water schemes were completed. A separate 23 valley tanks and 14 boreholes were sunk in Karamoja alone under the Karamoja Livelihoods Project of the Office of the Prime Minister. 7,713 home-based tanks for harvesting and storing rain water have been provided.
The net effect of government interventions thus far is the much improved functionality of water sources and access to safe water countrywide. For example, compliance with safety standards (for drinking water) was documented at 99.2% of the 60,471 samples tested in Uganda in 2015. This score is better than the 97% recommended by World Health Organisation.
Water resource development features extensively in the National Development Plan (NDP II), a key blue-print for the next schedule of government investments in Uganda. This means that more bulk water reservoirs will be built.
The NRM government will invest in mitigating the effects of extreme weather on our water resources and invest further in irrigation and water purification facilities.
It is not a mere coincidence that life expectancy in Uganda is tending towards 60 years. Most Ugandans now consume safe water. Sufficient water for production is one of the factors that will ensure a stable GDP growth rate for Uganda now and in future.
Our citizens can see beyond the political trickery of the likes of FDC’s Dr. Besigye and ‘Go Forward’s’ Amama Mbabazi. For these merchants of deceit and trickery, a recent New Vision poll that estimated candidate Y.K Museveni’s support at 71% must be the harbinger of political Armageddon.
By February 20, the formidable political tide (NRM) they are attempting to swim against will have overwhelmed them beyond redemption. Like our wise people say, gakyaali mabaga, i.e there is more to come - from the NRM.
The writer is the National Treasurer of the NRM Party