THE percentage of Ugandans with access to safe and clean water in urban areas has improved over the last one year, the 2014 water and environment sector performance report shows
By Taddeo Bwambale and Agnes Nantambi
THE percentage of Ugandans with access to safe and clean water in urban areas has improved over the last one year, the 2014 water and environment sector performance report shows.
The report shows that 72.8% of Ugandans in urban areas live within 200 metres of a clean and safe water source, up from 70% last year.
It, however, shows that the population living in rural areas within one kilometre of a clean water source has stagnated since last year at 64%.
According to the report, the low coverage in rural areas is attributed to inadequate funding to the district local governments that are responsible for water service provision.
The report was launched Tuesday at the opening of the 6th Joint Water and Environment sector review meeting held at Commonwealth Speke Resort Munyonyo where Water and environment minister, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu said the sector was inadequately funded in spite of rapid population growth and urbanisation.
“The water sector has not been given as much priority as other sectors such as infrastructure and energy. Our population is increasing rapidly, raising demand for water,” Kamuntu said.
The Minister warned that Uganda’s move towards oil production and the increased investment in agriculture may not be sustained if sufficient investment is not made in the water sector.
“The oil and gas sector will need a lot of water. As more people get into agriculture, demand for water will increase. We need 10% allocation of the national budget,” Kamuntu stated.
He proposed the establishment of a Water Fund for crowd-funding the creation of more clean water sources and maintenance existing facilities.
The Minister called for a mind-set shift on traditional practices that encourage women and children to walk long distances to fetch water for their families.
“I have travelled to Europe and America and I have never seen a woman or child carrying a jerrican(20 litre plastic container) on their head. How can it be accepted in our country and continent?” Kamuntu noted.
Key priorities for the ministry this year will be a national tree-planting campaign to restore depleted forest cover and encourage rain water harvesting in homes and schools.
During the sector review meeting, the state minister for finance (planning), Matia Kasaija refuted claims of inadequate funding to the water and environment sector.
He clashed with the water ministry’s permanent secretary, David Obong, who insisted that the ministry was underfunded and its work was held back by strict procurement laws.
“When we award a contract and one party is not satisfied, the procurement law provides for thorough investigations and whole process is then repeated, leading to delays,” Obong said.
But Kasaija instead blamed some of the challenges faced by the sector on low absorption rates of funds allocated to it due to frequent audit queries.
“We send money to ministries but people fail to absorb it. Either they do not know what they want or they don’t know how to plan for their activities,” Kasaija asserted.
He advised officials to improve transparency and accountability in order to enhance efficiency in their work.
Budget allocations to the ministry have increased to sh420b in the year 2014/2015, up from sh383.8b in 2013/2014.
Access to safe water improving