Rapid urbanization and poorly maintained water and sanitation systems in towns bordering Lake Victoria are severely impacting the quality of water in Africa’s biggest lake, Anna Tibaijuka, the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, said today.
Speaking at the launch of the Lake Victoria Region Water and Sanitation Initiative held during the 2004 Stockholm Water Week, Tibaijuka warned Water Ministers from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda that the cost of cleaning up the Lake will be much greater in the future if they did not act now to improve water and sanitation infrastructure in these towns.
UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director highlighted the fact that the investment required to rehabilitate and upgrade water and sanitation facilities and to improve solid waste management and drainage structures for the estimated one million people who live in small towns bordering Lake Victoria amounts to about US$ 52 million. This translates to an investment of approximately US$ 50 per capita.
The key objectives of the Lake Victoria Region Water and Sanitation Initiative are to improve water supply and sanitation in secondary urban centres surrounding Lake Victoria and to help reduce the environmental impact of pollution from these towns on the Lake’s ecology. In collaboration with the Governments of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, UN-HABITAT has already completed a rapid appraisal of the current status of water and sanitation provision in 30 small and medium towns in the Lake Victoria region. The appraisal indicates that water and infrastructure in most small towns surrounding the Lake is often in disuse because of poor maintenance and low human resource capacity to operate and maintain the infrastructure.
Based on the initial assessment, investment plans for five towns in each country have now been prepared. UN-HABITAT, through its Water for African Cities Programme, intends to bring grant support to these towns on a revolving fund principle, mainly to rehabilitate the existing facilities and to strengthen local capacity for maintenance and operation. The Initiative launched today is a concrete step on the part of UN-HABITAT to operationalize the Programme in the Lake Victoria region.
Martha Karua (Kenya), Edward Lowassa (Tanzania) and Maria Mutagamba (Uganda), the Water Ministers from the three East African countries, appealed to development partners to help their respective governments meet the objectives of the Initiative. Such support, they said, would help increase the economic potential in this transboundary Lake region and assist the three countries to achieve their Millennium Development Goal of improving water and sanitation in urban areas.