Archive for June, 2012

June 29, 2012

Uganda: Experts Warn of Disease Outbreak Due to 18% VAT on Water

Paschal B. Bagonza
June 29, 2012

Three women are each carrying a 20-litre empty jerrycan. They look scared, and are running away from a locked water tap. The padlock reads “18% TAX.” It is a sweaty run to the well to collect water. One of the women has a baby strapped on her back; of course, they are barefooted. The well where they are running to has some very happy, but thorny members therein. These members include cholera, hepatitis, dysentery, typhoid, polio, guinea worm and scabies. One of the members (Cholera) in this well shouts, “Long live the budget.”

This is a cartoon in a local daily, The New Vision, talking about how the minister of finance, planning and economic development, Maria Kiwanuka, reinstated the 18% Value Added Tax (VAT) on piped water in the 2012/2013 Financial year national budget. She said the reinstated tax will contribute over Shs 24 billion to the national treasury

People including a child collect water for domestic use in a rural part of Uganda

The reinstating of the tax has generated debates in taxis, amongst boda boda riders (riders of commercial motorbikes), cooks, washing bay operators and schools among many others. This is because water as a resource, is the very basic of being, just like life.

In one of the debates in a commuter taxi a woman quips, “Balalu okwongeza omusolo kumazzi” (are they [Government] mad to increase water tax).

A 20-litre jerrycan of water was being sold at between Shs 150 and Shs 200, depending on the location and scarcity of the resource. There are fears that water prices are going to double or hit Shs 500 per 20-litre jerrycan. Certain boarding schools and landlords are planning to shift the burden of the tax to their students and tenants respectively.

There are fears that manufacturing industries are going to heap the burden on the final consumer by increasing commodity prices.

According to Water Aid, 33% of Uganda’s population does not have access to safe water, and 52% of people are without sanitation. Infant mortality stands at 130 in 1,000, and 26,000 children under the age of five die every year die from diarrheal diseases.

The ministry of water and environment says access to safe water in urban areas (mainly through piped water supplies and boreholes, as well as shallow wells in small towns), currently stands at 66%.

In an exclusive interview with Water Journalists Africa, at Makerere University, a PhD Research Fellow at the UNESCO-IHE (Institute for Water Education), Ezrah Natumanya said the tax means that more people will not be able to access water, thereby reducing the water coverage in the country.

Ezrah Natumanya, a PhD Research Fellow at UNESCO-IHE

Natumanya said what would have been done is to “increase the fares for the industries and rich people, but not for the poor people.”

He said given the anticipated price increment of water people are going to start consuming untreated water and from local sources.

Natumanya said it would also be “good for the government to review the issue of reinstating VAT on water.”

He is worried that since people are going to avoid using tap water due to anticipated price rise, they are going to suffer from many water borne diseases. He added that people are also going to resume using pit latrines instead of flushing toilets because of the water costs. The use of pit latrines, he said, will expose the environment to more diseases and bacteria.

Natumanya has been working at Makerere University Institute of Environment and Natural Resources since December 2006. He is currently the chairperson of WaterNet Alumni.

He has previously written papers, supervised students and has research interests in hydrology, water supply and sanitation, integrated water resources management and climate change – impacts and adaptations in the water sector.

According to Natumanya, scientific studies show that every Ugandan uses over 25 cubic metres (about five 20-litre jerrycans) per day.

A private environment consultant in water resources management, Danson Asiimwe, told me that the government didn’t take due diligence in reinstating the tax.

Asiimwe said the tax is going to increase everything and that with time, a common person will feel the pinch. He said consumers will have to shoulder the tax load through high prices levied by manufacturing industries, because they want to meet their huge water bills.

He said the reinstating is also like the government is “legalising water borne-diseases. Saying that it is ok we can have water borne diseases as long as we collect our money. I think it is not okay,” Asiimwe observed.

80% of diseases in developing countries are caused by contaminated water.

Like Natumanya, Asiimwe is also worried that the moment the cost of a jerrycan from piped water source increases, people will resort to unsafe sources/wells. “Rather than pay Shs 2 per 20-litre jerrycan, people would instead go to fetch water from unsafe sources. In the end, the diseases we have been trying to eliminate will come back, especially in urban centres.”

MPs vow to fight the tax

The speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga said Parliament is going to fight the reintroduction of VAT on piped water.

Kadaga said the previous parliament rejected this proposal and wonders as to why the government is reintroducing it, Kfm reported.

“In the seventh and eighth parliament, we rejected that proposal. We had a big battle over it with the ministry of finance. We defeated them that time, but now they have brought it back. I am sure the members of parliament are getting ready for another battle,” Kadaga said.

Uganda’s speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga

She said parliament is ready to fight the proposal, which is likely is to have a negative impact on the lives of many Ugandans.
“I don’t know what reason she [minister of finance] is going to give now for justifying it, because we defeated it logically. But let’s see what she has to say this time.

Other MPs opposed to the tax are John Ken Lukyamuzi and Ronald Reagan Okumu. The legislators said the reintroduction is going to make it hard for an average person to access clean water, especially those in rural areas.

Lukyamuzi echoed Natumanya’s worry that the reinstating of the tax on piped water will lead to an increase of water born diseases as people look for alternative sources of water, because they can’t afford it.

The opposition Forum for Democratic Change spokesperson Phillip Wafula Oguttu said his party cannot accept that tax.
“You don’t increase taxes on beer, but put VAT on water for poor people. Water is life, and we hope we shall mobilise our colleagues in parliament…that that tax is defeated.”

However, Gomba County MP Rosemary Najjemba Muyinda defended the reinstating of the tax saying this will be used to extend clean water to rural areas.

According to the UN, about 1.1 billion people the world over cannot access safe drinking water, and still 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation.

The UN adds that because of this massive sanitation figure, 1.8 million people die every year from diarrheal diseases, including 90% of children under the age of five.

June 26, 2012

Brazil: Rio+20 Summit Paves Way for Sustainable Development Goals

UNEP
June 24, 2012

The Rio+ 20 Summit ended with a range of outcomes which, if embraced over the coming months and years, offer the opportunity to catalyze pathways towards a more sustainable 21st century.

Heads of State and more than 190 nations gave the green light to a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Nations agreed that such a transition could be ‘an important tool’ when supported by policies that encourage decent employment, social welfare and inclusion and the maintenance of the Earth’s ecosystems from forests to freshwaters.

Rio+20 Logo

The decision supports nations wishing to forge ahead with a green economy transition while providing developing economies with the opportunity for access to international support in terms of finance and capacity building.

Meanwhile the Summit also gave the go-ahead towards a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to bring all nations—rich and poor– into cooperative target setting across a range of challenges from water and land up to food waste around the globe.

The SDGs are expected to compliment the Millennium Development Goals after 2015: they reflect the reality that a transition to an inclusive green economy and the realization of a sustainable century needs to also include the footprints of developed nations as well as as developing ones as they aim to eradicate poverty and transit towards a sustainable path.

Other potentially positive outcomes include a ten year framework on sustainable consumption and production with a group of companies announcing at Rio+20 initiatives to already move forward including in the area of sustainable government procurement of goods and services.

A decision to work towards a new global indicator of wealth that goes beyond the narrowness of GDP; encouragement for governments to push forward on requiring companies to report their environmental, social and governance footprints.

After some four decades of discussion and calls for the environment programme of the UN to be strengthened, governments agreed on an upgrading of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Meanwhile the World Congress on Justice, Governance, and Law for Environmental Sustainability, hosted by the Brazilian Supreme Court and UNEP in partnership with a number of international organizations, committed to use international and national laws to advance sustainability, human and environmental rights and the implementation of environmental treaties.

The Congress, involving some 200 delegates including chief justices, senior judges, attorney-generals, chief prosecutors, auditor-generals and senior auditors, called on governments to back an Institutional Framework for the Advancement of Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability in the 21st Century backed by UNEP.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, said: “World leaders and governments have today agreed that a transition to a Green Economy—backed by strong social provisions—offers a key pathway towards a sustainable 21st century”.

“Several other important agreements were also forged that can assist in enabling that transition ranging from assessing the potential of a new indicator of wealth and human progress beyond the narrowness of GDP to increasing the level of accountability and transparency of companies in respect to reporting their environmental, social and governance footprints,” he added.

“The outcome of Rio+20 will disappoint and frustrate many given the science, the day to day reality of often simply surviving as individuals and as families, the analysis of where development is currently heading for seven billion people and the inordinate opportunity for a different trajectory. However if nations, companies, cities and communities can move forward on the positive elements of the Summit’s outcome it may assist in one day realizing the Future We Want,” said Mr Steiner.

“Meanwhile after almost four decades of discussion , governments have decided to upgrade UNEP including in key areas such as universal membership and improved financial resources—this is welcome as one important way for improving the authority, the influence and the impact of the world’s minister responsible for the environment in terms of moving development onto a more sustainable track,” said Mr Steiner.

Cover photo of the publication Rio 92, what did it lead to?

Beyond GDP
Rio+20 addressed growing concern that Gross Domestic Product may have out lived its usefulness in a world where natural resource scarcity, pollution and social exclusion are also becoming drivers of whether a nation’s wealth is truly going up or running down.
The Summit’s outcome document requests the UN Statistical Commission to work with other UN bodies including UNEP and other organizations to identify new approaches for measuring progress.

The Commission’s work will draw on a range of assessments and pilot projects ongoing across the globe.

Inclusive Wealth, which is based on the World Bank’s Adjusted Net Saving indicator, is developing a more inclusive indicator of national wealth, covering not only produced capital, human capital, and natural capital, but also critical ecosystems –and through the UN, a new Systems of Environmental and Economic Accounts has been proposed for use by member states.

UNEP and the UN University’s International Human Development Programme at Rio+20 presented findings from an Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI) looking at several countries including Brazil.

Other pathways towards a new indicator include:-
The EU effort to go “Beyond GDP” – launched in November 2007 its aims to come up with a broader set of macro-level indexes other than GDP and provide information on how economic growth affects its own foundation (stock of all assets)

Several countries including Brazil, Colombia, Germany, India and the United Kingdom have or are now carrying out national assessments of the value of their ‘natural assets’ drawing on those done globally by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity hosted by UNEP
Consumption and Production

Another potentially significant step forward was the adoption of a 10 year framework on sustainable consumption and production covering several sectors ranging from tourism to government procurement.

During Rio+20 over 30 governments and institutions including Brazil, Denmark, Switzerland and UNEP announced a new global International Sustainable Public Procurement Initiative (SPPI) aimed at scaling-up the level of public spending flowing into goods and services that maximize environmental and social benefits.

Studies indicate that sustainable public procurement, which represents between 15 and 25 per cent of GDP, offers a tremendous opportunity towards green innovation and sustainability.

Examples from around the world show that sustainable public procurement has the potential to transform markets, boost the competitiveness of eco industries, save money, conserve natural resources and foster job creation.

In India, for example, government procurement is worth about US $300 billion and is expected to grow by more than 10 per cent annually in the coming years

Across the OECD group of countries, public procurement represents close to 20 per cent of GDP (over US $4,700 billion annually), while in developing countries the proportion can be slightly higher

Japan’s Green Purchasing Policy, has contributed to the growth of the country’s eco-industries, estimated to be worth about €430 billion in 2010.

Europe could save up to 64 per cent of energy – or 38 TWh of electricity – by replacing street lights with smarter lighting solutions.

In Brazil, the Foundation for Education Development succeeded in saving 8,800 m3 of water, 1,750 tonnes of waste and 250 kg of organohalogen compounds, providing the equivalent of one month economic activity to 454 waste pickers, through its decision to replace regular notebooks with ones made of recycled paper in 2010.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff welcoming world leaders to Rio+20 Summit

Sustainability Reporting
An estimated 25 per cent of the 20,000 companies tracked by Bloomberg are reporting their environmental, social and governance footprints—but 75 per cent are not.

Such in-depth data offers the opportunity for pension funds to invest in companies with a long term perspective of profits through sustainability reporting while assisting governments in measuring the contribution of multi-nationals towards national sustainability goals and progress beyond GDP.

On 20 June several countries including Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa–several of whom already have stock exchanges requiring better reporting– announced they would move forward on the issue with support from UNEP and the Global Reporting Initiative.

UNEP Upgrade
Rio+20 also agreed to strengthen and ‘upgrade’ the UNEP in order to strengthen the environmental pillar of sustainable development.

The decisions include addressing the limited membership of UNEP which currently stands at 58 member states into a body with universal membership of its Governing Council while increasing UNEP’s financial resources by an increased allocation from the UN’s regular budget.

The Rio+20 outcome also calls on the next General Assembly of the UN to strengthen UNEP’s ability to assist member states at the regional and national level and to build on its science-policy interface including through UNEP’s flagship Global Environment Outlook process.

June 20, 2012

Rio+20 Summit: Sustainable Water Management is Achieving Economic, Social and Environmental Benefits, say Countries

UN Water and UNEP
June 19, 2012

Over 80 per cent of countries have reformed their water laws in the past twenty years as a response to growing pressures on water resources from expanding populations, urbanization and climate change.

In many cases, such water reforms have had positive impacts on development, including improvements to drinking water access, human health and water efficiency in agriculture.

But global progress has been slower where irrigation, rainwater harvesting and investment in freshwater ecosystem services are concerned.

Men in rural part of Uganda constructing a rainwater harvesting tank

These are among the findings of a United Nations survey of over 130 national governments on efforts to improve the sustainable management of water resources. The survey was specifically produced to inform decision-making at Rio+20.

The survey focuses on progress towards the implementation of internationally-agreed approaches to the management and use of water, known as Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

Backed by UN Member States at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit as part of an overall action plan on sustainable development (Agenda 21), IWRM is a way forward for efficient, equitable and sustainable development and management of the world’s limited water resources.

Amid increasing and conflicting demands on the world’s water supply, IWRM integrates domestic, agricultural, industrial and environmental needs into water planning, rather than considering each demand in isolation.

“An integrated and adaptive approach is essential to ensure that the needs of different user groups, which sometimes compete, are equitably satisfied so that development and management of water resources benefits all,” said the Chair of UN-Water, Michel Jarraud.

“Its success depends on a governance and institutional framework that facilitates dialogue and decisions on water resource management which is ecologically, economically and socially sustainable,” he said.

Twenty years after the Earth Summit, world governments are convening once again in Rio, where the critical role of freshwater management in the transition to a low carbon, resource and inclusive green economy is one of several key issues on the table.

The survey, which was co-ordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on behalf of UN-Water (the UN inter-agency co-ordination mechanism for freshwater issues), asked governments for their feedback on infrastructure, financing, governance and other areas relating to water management, to gauge how successful countries have been in moving towards IWRM.

UNEP and UN Water Logos

Overall, 90 per cent of countries surveyed reported a range of positive impacts from integrated approaches to water management, following national reforms.
Other key findings include:
• Water-related risks and the competition for water resources are perceived by a majority of countries to have increased over the past 20 years;
• Domestic water supply is ranked by most countries as the highest priority for water resources management;
• The majority of countries reported an increasing trend in financing for water resources development, although obstacles to implementing reforms remain;
• Progress on water efficiency is lagging behind other water management reforms, with less than 50 per cent of national reforms addressing water efficiency.
“The sustainable management and use of water – due to its vital role in food security, energy or supporting valuable ecosystem services – underpins the transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient green economy,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“As well as highlighting challenges, this new survey also shows important successes regarding integrated water resources management, where a more sustainable approach to water has resulted in tangible benefits for poverty reduction, human health and the environment. At Rio+20, governments have the opportunity to build on these innovations and chart the way forward for sustainable development, where the water needs of a global population set to rise to 9 billion by 2050, can be met in an equitable way,” added Mr. Steiner.

The UN survey shows the major environmental changes that have taken place between 1992, when IWRM was firstly widely backed by governments, and today – and how water resources are managed in the face of such challenges.

The world population, for example, increased from 5.3 billion in 1992 to just over 7 billion today, with impacts being felt most strongly in developing countries. This has been accompanied by increased rural-to-urban migration and high refugee movements due to climatic and socio-political disasters.

June 19, 2012

Zambia: Germany Supports Water Infrastructure Improvement

Newton Sibanda
June 19, 2012

The Germany government will provide Zambia’s Eastern Province with K106.5 billion under the Urban Water Supply and Sanitation programme.

The three-phase project will utilize K46.5 billion towards the improvement of the water infrastructure in the towns through the Eastern Water and Sewerage Company (EWSC).

Germany ambassador Frank Meyke disclosed the development during the handover of the EWSC water treatment plant in Petauke that his government would provide the funding in three phases to the programme being implemented by the provincial water utility.

Mr Meyke said the K46.5 billion will be made in the first phase towards the water infrastructure in the towns of Petauke, Lundazi, Mambwe and Chama respectively.

Germany ambassador to Zambia Frank Meyke

The works will include the drilling of boreholes, installation of pumps, construction of storage reservoirs, laying of pipes, and construction of water kiosks. They will also include rehabilitation of sanitation facilities in schools and hospitals as well as maintenance works on Lundazi Dam.

Mr Meyke notes that the project would benefit 100,000 people many of whom would enjoy such services for the first time.

“In Eastern Province, a total of K106.5 billion will be made available in three phases to the Urban Water Supply and Sanitation. At the end of the first phase, K46.5 billion will be disbursed to improve water infrastructure in the towns of Petauke, Lundazi, Chama and Mambwe,” he said.

The project would soon go into the second phase in the towns of Chadiza, Nyimba, Katete and Chipata.

Mr Meyke said besides the Urban Water Supply and Sanitation programme in Eastern Province, German also supported the rural sector where close to 2000 water points were constructed, reaching approximately 600,000 rural people and that the value of the projects in the province amounted to a total sum of K177 billion.

He said at the recent Government negotiations on development cooperation between the two governments in November last year, a total of K215 billion was committed for future support to the Zambian water and sanitation sector.

Mr Meyke also said 880 million Euros had been provided under the German-Zambia Development Cooperation for over 40 years, saying the bulk of this had been allocated to the water and sanitation sector.

He said German would continue supporting Zambia in increasing access to safe drinking water and to improved sanitation facilities.

He said through the improvement of water and sanitation, Zambia would be assisted to achieve some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

Eastern Province Minister Charles Banda commended Germany for the support being rendered to Zambia.

Mr Banda said he was happy that the cooperation between the two countries in the water sector dated back to the 1990s when the Government of Zambia commenced the water sector reform programme.

“The Germany Government has been key to the success of the water sector through the support it has given to Southern and North-Western Water and Sewerage Companies, the National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) and to the Ministry of Local Government and Housing,” he said.

Mr Banda said the Zambian Government was committed to continuing the steadfast water sector reforms of 1994 and implementation of the concept of commercialization.

He however said the Government was aware that EWSC was owed K3.5 billion in outstanding water bills by various departments and directed all Government departments with outstanding water bills to liquidate them or face disconnection by the water supply company.

June 18, 2012

Rio+20 Summit: UNEP Launches Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities

UNEP
June 18, 2012

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners have unveiled a new initiative that aims to reduce pollution levels, improve resource efficiency and reduce infrastructure costs in cities across the world.

Launched today June 18, 2012 at the Rio+20 summit in Brazil, the Global Initiative for Resource-Efficient Cities will work with local and national governments, the private sector and civil society groups to promote energy efficient buildings, efficient water use, sustainable waste management and other activities.

Image of an urban world exhibited by UN Habitat during the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille France.

Cities with populations of 500,000 or more are invited to join the initiative, which aims to attract 200 members by 2015.

In a rapidly urbanizing world, cities are increasingly becoming the focus of international sustainability efforts.

Up to 80 percent of the world population is expected to reside in cities by 2050. Indeed, this ‘second wave’ of urbanization is projected to see over 3 billion additional people living in cities in a time-span of just 80 years, primarily in Africa and Asia.

Today, urban areas account for 50 percent of all waste, generate 60-80 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions and consume 75 percent of natural resources, yet occupy only 3 percent of the Earth’s surface.

Yet water savings of 30 percent and energy saving of up to 50 percent can be achieved in cities with limited investment and encouraging behavioral change, according to UNEP.

Moreover, the economic opportunities associated with making cities more sustainable are numerous. As centres of technology, cities can spearhead the creation of green jobs in sectors such as renewable energy. Projections show that some 20 million people could be employed in the wind, solar and biofuel industries by 2030, for example.

Mumbai, India. In a rapidly urbanizing world, cities are increasingly becoming the focus of international sustainability efforts

The Global Initiative for Resource-Efficient Cities will support sustainability efforts in cities with the following core activities:

• Promoting research on resource efficiency and sustainable consumption and production
• Providing access and advice for city decision-makers on technical expertise, capacity building and funding opportunities for improving resource efficiency
• Creating a network for cities and organizations to exchange experiences and peer-review projects for mutual benefit

“Decoupling economic growth from unsustainable resource use and environmental impacts – especially in urban areas -underpins the transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient green economy”, said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director.

“The new Global Initiative for Resource Efficiency Cities aims to provide cities with a common framework for assessing environmental performance and encouraging innovative sustainability measures. In the context of rapid urbanization and growing pressures on natural resources, there is an urgent need for co-ordinated action on urban sustainability. This is essential both for preventing irreversible degradation of resources and ecosystems, and for realizing the multiple benefits of greener cities, from savings through energy-efficient buildings, or the health and climate benefits of cleaner fuels and vehicles.”

UNEP Logo

The initiative has already been backed by a broad range of international institutions, such as UN-Habitat, World Bank, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), Cities Alliance, International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC), Veolia Environment Institute, Bioregional, Urban Environmental Accords Members Alliance and International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

Several cities have also quickly come on board, including the City of Sao Paulo (TBC), Copenhagen (TBC), Malmo (TBC), Gwangju, with national interest having been expressed by Japan and the United States.

“The strong, early interest in this initiative is further evidence that cities, which generate 80 per cent of global GDP, understand they are the key decision-makers and implementers of the necessary steps required to move our societies towards a more sustainable pattern of consumption and production,”said David Miller, former mayor of Toronto and past chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

More information on the Global Initiative for Resource-Efficient Cities is available at:http://www.unep.org/pdf/GI-REC_4pager.pdf

June 16, 2012

Kenya: Human Waste turns into Gold

Mary Mwendwa
June 16, 2012

Did you know that up to 60 percent of the population in Nairobi- Kenya’s capital lives in slums? Extremely limited access to water, sanitation and adequate housing characterize most of these slums. However, there are agencies that are working towards making sure human waste no longer lies on paths and drains. They are turning this waste into gold as our Mary Mwendwa found out.

Umande Trust, an NGO based in Nairobi, has rolled out a project for constructing biocenters in various informal settlements in Kenya. The move is aimed at improving sanitation, providing renewable energy (bio-gas) and income generation.

The initiative will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It involves diverting human waste into a digester which generates biogas. Biogas is a natural gas which is used for cooking in a gas stove.

Kibera, Africa’s largest slum

Paul Muchire, a communications manager at Umande says, “We came up with this idea because there were many pit latrines in slums and many times they were full and no proper mechanisms of disposing the waste were in place, this resulted in many people to use flying toilets.”

The centers are found in Kibera, Korogocho, Mukuru Mji wa huruma – a slum within one of the high class residential areas in Nairobi, Runda, and Kisumu.

“ Life here in Katwekera has really improved, I no longer use flying toilet with my family, I can also access gas at 20 ksh , which is cheaper than charcoal that goes for 50 ksh per 2 kg tin,” Mary Akinyi, a mother of five aged 36 , caretaker at Muvi – Biocetre in Katwekera Kibera says.

The biocentre is one of the many that Umande trust has built in partnership with Water and Sanitation For The Urban Poor, Nairobi City Water and Sewage Company among others. Multi Vision Self Help Group runs the Biocenter.

Toilets, bathrooms, rental spaces, water and a biogas unit (A mixture of methane and carbon dioxide produced by bacterial degradation of organic matter and used as a fuel) are main services provided by this facility. One pays 5ksh for toilet, water 3ksh per 20litres, shower 10ksh warm and cold 5 ksh to cook with biogas 20 ksh shillings per meal.

Muvi Biocetre in Katwekera, Kibera

Mary adds that life has become easier and environment is very clean, before there was a terrible stench from the human waste that was thrown allover the place. As a mother she is able to cook for her family of five meals cheaply using biogas from the human waste, this could cost her a lot with charcoal energy.

“Nyoyo” in her Dholuo language, a mixture of maize and beans takes a lot of charcoal and time to prepare, but with biogas she can cook faster and cheaper.

A beehive of activity goes on at the Muvi biocenter, the gas heater is on with water boiling for a client to bath, Githeri a Kikuyu language word, mixture of maize and beans are lined up waiting to be cooked by Susan Wanjiku who runs a small kiosk around.

Huge tanks of water and toilet papers are what one glances at first. Mary, the caretaker is with a broom in her hands and water ready to wash the facility. No smell of any form from human waste smells here.

Kennedy Gaya and Charles Otieno, some of the members I found at the facility, comment on the facility in terms of improved hygiene standards in the slum. Through the technical support from Umande Trust, a biodigester is dug underground to help processing of the biogas which produces energy for cooking at the biocenter.

Kibera one of the largest slums in Africa with an average population of 1 million, has biocentres in Lindi, Soweto, Kianda and Kichinjio villages.The biocentres are constructed by Umande and other partners and then handed over to self-help groups within the villages to run and generate income from them.

Michael Francis, a technical service manager with Umande notes that self-help groups are best placed to run the centre because they are able to acquire land for the project and also represent community. Through Umande Trust, members can access microfinance services such as loans to empower them economically.

women cooking using biogas at a Biocentre

Paul Muchire, a communications manager at Umande Trust, emphasizes self help groups are very key in this project. They decide on the design of the biocentre depending on the needs of a specific community they represent.

However, this project faces stigma from some community members especially the men who at times oppose the use of biogas from human waste, but through training from Umande, people are slowly changing and accepting biogas from human waste as energy like any other and with no side effects.

A bagging method to help address this challenge is at the pilot stage .Through the bagging method where people can get gas in canvas bags at 20 ksh for hiring and 20 ksh for the gas will help those who are not near the biocentre to access the gas for use.

Michael Francis, a technician service at Umande confirms that a bagging system is still at the pilot stage and they believe it will really help once it is rolled out fully.

The gas bags cost 11,000 shillings each and therefore individuals from the slums may not be able to afford therefore hiring is best suited for them. They have ten bags already which they intend to use soon.

Biocentres have come as a savoir to water and sanitation challenges facing people in informal settlements.

“Flying toilets” as commonly known among many slum dwellers, have drastically reduced. People in informal settlements like Katwekera in Kibera, had no access to clean water and sanitation.

An easy and available option was to use plastic bags to help themselves then throw the human waste within their surrounding. This contributes to many environmental and health hazards to the communities living in the slums. Waterborne diseases, pollution of the environment through plastic bags pose a great risk to children who don’t have powerful immune systems to fight infections.

Biocenters, through services of biogas and supply of clean water is an option which can help communities improve on their livelihoods in a “green” way.

June 15, 2012

Zambia: Call-Boys Urinate against Poor Sanitation

Newton Sibanda
June 15, 2012

In a bizarre way of demonstrating, call-boys at the main commuter station of Zambia’s tourist capital Livingstone have urinated against poor sanitation during a visit by the parliamentary committee on local government.

Call-boys are the rowdy youths who earn their living by shouting for customers and wooing commuters at bus stations or bus stops.

The peculiar incident happened when committee members led by Eustackio Kazunga visited the Livingstone bus station to familiarize themselves with the challenges being faced by the Livingstone City Council in terms of sanitation last week.

Poor Sanitation and hygiene remains one of dangerous threats to good health in most Africa’s towns

Determined to raise the profile of their plight, albeit in a unique way, the call boys invited the cameraman from the public broadcaster, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) who was covering the tour and led him to a caravan situated next to a makeshift restaurant commonly known as ‘Savage Restaurant’ where they openly urinated.

“We want to show you how we go about our daily lives. This is our only toilet and behind this caravan is a restaurant,” said one call boy as others joined him in the urinating mission.

As the committee bypassed the caravan, the call boys shouted while pointing at the heaps of garbage and their makeshift ‘toilets’.

Three other boys urinating as Kazonga, who is former local government minister, hurriedly walked on.

Earlier, a minibus driver pushed his way through the councilors who accompanied Kazonga to brief him on the bad state of the station.

“This place is very bad, especially during the rainy season. We want it to be worked on,” said.

In response, Kazonga said “The council management is here with the Town Clerk and the mayor and they are listening. We want this place to be a decent one with toilets and running water.”

June 15, 2012

Uganda: Government Allocates 355 BN/= to the Water Sector

Paschal B. Bagonza
June 15, 2012

The government of Uganda has allocated Shs. 355 billion to the water sector in the 2012/2013 financial year.

In last year’s budget, the government earmarked Shs 271 billion to the same sector.

The minister of finance, planning and economic development, Maria Kiwanuka said the increase is necessary because “the component for bulk water supply previously under the agricultural sector has now been transferred to the water sector.”

Uganda’s finance Minister, Maria Kiwanuka

While presenting the national budget in Kampala, Kiwanuka said the government’s priority in the water sector is to avail it for production.

She noted that the government plans to have an emergency rehabilitation and upgrading of Gaba I and II intake to increase water production capacity to 300 million liters per day and construction of a four million liters reservoir at Namasuba-a city suburb.

Kiwanuka revealed that in next financial year, gravity flow schemes supplying Nabweya, Lirima and Kanyampaga and small piped water systems for Luanda, Kabumba and Ongino Rural Growth centers will be constructed, for improved rural water supply.

She added that piped water systems will also be built in Lamwo, Agago and Nwoya, among many others. The ongoing construction of piped water systems in Paidha, Patongo, Opit, Omugo and 25 other township townships will be completed.

About a quarter of Uganda’s population lack access to safe water

The government will also start constructing new systems in Moyo, Ibuye, Kalongo, Purongo and Akujo, she said.

She also revealed plans for further investments in urban water supply and drilling of boreholes.

Through the National Water and Sewerage Corporation, she added, the government will undertake a number of projects of constructing a water treatment plant, rehabilitation of Bugolobi Sewage treatment plant and construction of waste water management plant.

In order to address constraints in water for production, the government plans to rehabilitate windmills in Karamoja Region, construct Kitasi-Sanga-Kanyaryeru bulk water scheme in Kiruhura district, design the Rwengaaju irrigation scheme in Kabarole and Kulwodong dam in Abim District.

About a quarter of Uganda’s population lack access to safe water.

June 6, 2012

Tanzania: WSSCC Offers 5M USD to Tanzania for Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion

WSSCC
June 06, 2012

The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) has officially announced its support for a Sanitation and Hygiene programme investing US$ 5,000,000 from its Global Sanitation Fund (GSF) to help more communities in Tanzania increase access to and attain improved sanitation.

Known as the Usafi wa Mazingira Tanzani (UMATA) in Kiswahili, the programme announced by WSSCC is part of the country’s broader National Sanitation Programme, also unveiled by the Government at the national World Environment Day celebrations.

The GSF funded programme was announced at a high profile event hosted by President of the United Republic Of Tanzania, Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete in the presence of senior dignitaries, decision makers and civil society representatives, in the central area of Dodoma – where the programme will commence.

Global Sanitation Fund logo

Unlike in neighbouring countries, basic sanitation coverage in Tanzania is relatively good, as many people have latrines. However many latrines are either unused or unhygienic, as highlighted by a recent baseline district data which revealed that only 28 % of the rural population have access to improved sanitation and less than 25% of the total population is estimated to have a designated place for hand-washing with soap.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 70% of diseases in Tanzania are water related and it is estimated that these cost Tanzania close to US$ 600 million annually. As such the case for proper sanitation and hygiene as an effective preventative intervention is strong and has gained political traction recently.

Enshrined within the country’s development Vision 2025, the Government has increasingly recognized the hampering effects of poor sanitation and hygiene on its wider development efforts – such as eradication of poverty and economic advancement.

It therefore pledged to provide improved sanitation to 95% of its population by 2025. As part of the solution, the GSF-funded programme is supporting the Government in its landmark sanitation initiative “Go to Zero”. “The tide is really turning in favour of sanitation and hygiene,” said Mark Willis, Programme Manager for WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund. “The funds we are providing will mean that another 0.8 million Tanzanians will have better sanitation by 2015.”

The five-year UMATA programme worth US$ 5,000,000 aims to increase access and use of improved sanitation facilities and seeks to positively change behaviours related to sanitation and hygiene on a wide scale for communities. With an initial focus on three districts namely Bahi, Chamwino and Kongwa, the programme builds upon the National Sanitation Programme and existing country strategies.

It also aims to instigate significant change through strengthening existing national knowledge, skills and systems and the development of a National Information Education and Communications (IEC) strategy.

At a practical level, a pool of well-trained national facilitators will be deployed across the country to roll out sanitation and hygiene initiatives in Tanzania. The GSF-funded UMATA programme will contribute to poverty reduction through reducing healthcare expenses, increasing productivity, and improving attendance in schools amongst other benefits.

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