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Tanzania: Why Protecting Water Sources Is Important

Dar es Salaam — Experts in the water sector have called for quick interventions to protect Tanzania’s water basins that have been experiencing a decline from time to time due to human activities.

The decline threatens irrigation farming, fishing, energy generation and other economic activities which depend on water resource.

Water is abundant but only about 2.5 per cent of the world’s water is usable while the remainder is not suitable for consumption.

Tanzania is often portrayed as a water surplus country due to presence of large water bodies but their levels have been reportedly slowing.

Water engineer Pascal Joseph said increase in population, climate change, uncoordinated water use as well as industrial investments have been causing a decrease in surface water.

“The population has been increasing and continue depending on the same water sources which causes it to depreciate,” he said.

Highlighting the water capacity in Wami and Ruvu river basins, he said in 2014, the water cubic liters in Wami basin was 562 million compared to 380 million in 2015.

While in 2016 was 452 million compared to 578 million in 2017 and 509 million in 2018. For the Ruvu Basin, he said the cubic liters in 2017 was 2.263 billion compared to 2.115 billion in 2018.

In view of this, he said there was need to come up with solutions including having the right statistics for water users, harvesting water as well as drilling ground water to supplement the basins.

The legislation devolves water resources management to basin level entities. Thus, Tanzania is divided into nine River Lake basins namely: Pangani, Wami Ruvu, Rufiji, Ruvuma and the Southern Coast, Lake Nyasa, Internal Drainage Basin, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria Basins.

On his part, director of water resources, Dr George Lugomela said total Renewable Water Resources was 130,037 Million M³/Year, or 2365M³/Year Per Capita in 2018.

According to him the demand for water in Tanzania is 39,645 equal to 30.5 percent in 2015, 52,152 same as 40.1 per cent in 2015 and 57,560 equivalent to 44.3 per cent in 2035.

He said population and economic growth, along with increased climate variability are currently exacerbating water stresses in many of Basins such as Pangani, Wamiruvu, Rufiji (Great Ruaha) Basins.

Diminishing quantity and deterioration of water quality resulting from a wide range of economic activities is reducing the available amount of fresh water including pollution degradation of water catchment, impacting ecosystems, increasing siltation and the costs of water treatment.

Balancing of socio-economic needs and environmental ecological requirements, increased demands due growing populations and competing economic sectors is leaving insufficient water to sustain the environmental flows that keep the ecosystems healthy.

However he noted that challenges include insufficient data and information on water availability, use and quality; capacity constraint, water resources governance and management institutions; conflicting functions and uncoordinated planning and investments, weak coordination among sectors; and inadequate funding and inadequate water resources infrastructure.

He said Tanzania’s economy and population depend heavily on water as an input to production, source of energy, livelihoods, health and environmental sustenance.

Water-intensive sectors including agriculture (80 per cent use of available freshwater), industry and renewable natural resource-based activities such as forestry, tourism and fisheries account for most of GDP.

Despite of having plentiful sources of water, each of these water bodies exhibit unique characteristics and a complex range of water resources management and development issues and challenges.

Likewise, frequent and intense water shortages and water use conflicts exist in many areas both because of climate variability, poor distribution of the resource in time and space, and inadequate management of the water resources.

“As a result, this calls for a more coordinated and integrated participatory water resources management and development,” he said.

Explaining he said there are missing gaps in managing water resources where various water user groups in catchments, like irrigation, industry, fishing, water supply, hydropower generation, recreation, forestry, the environment and local communities, all claim to use and manage the water resource albeit in a manner suited to their own needs.

The many uses of water and the many types of users and managers implies that water resources management involves a wide array of decision and actors whose actions, if not properly coordinated, can only result into conflicts which negatively affect the same sectors and other users and the services they intend to provide.

He said there was need for sound decisions made jointly that will maximize desirable outcomes, minimize undesirable consequences and lead to sustainable outcomes in order to eliminate conflicts and sustainably provide the intended services.