With an estimated population of 35 million people, the Lake Victoria Basin supports one of the densest and poorest populations in sub- Saharan Africa. Rapid but unplanned urbanization and environmental degradation pose serious challenges for local authorities in many small but rapidly growing towns in the lake region. Signs of severe environmental stress are becoming increasingly evident with increasing discharge of untreated human and industrial waste into the lake.
The Lake Victoria Region Water and Sanitation Initiative, whose aim is to support secondary towns in the lake basin to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation, was formally launched in August 2004 by the Ministers responsible for water from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Formulated by UN-HABITAT at the request of the three governments, the initiative is implementing an integrated package of interventions including rehabilitation and expansion of dilapidated and inadequate water supply and sanitation infrastructure and improvements to drainage and solid waste management systems. To ensure long-term sustainability of these interventions and enhance operational efficiency within water and sanitation utilities in the towns, a comprehensive capacity building programme is being implemented simultaneously. Ultimately, the Initiative seeks to demonstrate that the Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation can be achieved in the project towns within a relatively short time frame and that these gains are sustainable over the long term.
Following the integration of Rwanda and Burundi into the East African Community, and at the request of the two governments, preliminary assessments have been undertaken to identify appropriate project towns for inclusion into the programme. The UN-HABITAT Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation initiative complements other ongoing country-based and regional programmes in the Lake Victoria Basin.
In the short span of two years, interventions to deliver immediate results in the first phase of the programme have been substantially completed, placing the initial seven project towns, namely, Kisii and Homa Bay in Kenya, Nyendo/Ssenyange and Kyotera in Uganda, Bukoba and Muleba in Tanzania, and the border town of Mutukula on track to achieving the water and sanitation Millennium Development Goals. Over 135,000 persons are now receiving a more reliable and sustainable supply of safe drinking water, while another 25,000 persons, mostly residents of low income settlements who previously had no access to safe water supplies, now have access. Interventions in sanitation have resulted some 40 300 persons now have access to improved basic sanitation.
Under the fast-track capacity building programme for water utilities, over 120 staff of four water and sanitation utilities in Kisii and Homa Bay in Kenya, and in Bukoba and Muleba in Tanzania have been trained and provided with technical assistance to improve their operational systems, including billing and revenue collection, water demand management, customer care and customer mapping. The assistance provided so far has resulted in a significant improvement in utility performance, particularly in revenue generation and reduction in non-revenue water. All of these utilities have drawn up medium term strategic plans incorporating performance measurement and improvement targets.
Programmes to help the water utilities to improve energy efficiency and explore the use of renewable energy technologies have also been initiated, with a feasibility study currently ongoing with a view to setting up a micro-hydropower generation system in Kisii town. A preliminary assessment of the scheme indicated that the mini-hydro system has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of energy for the local water service provider. A biogas feasibility study is also being undertaken in the project towns and solar photovoltaic power systems will be set up to light public water kiosks and public toilet facilities in low income settlements to enable them provide services to the residents at night.
Providing Sanitation for Poor Women Headed Households
As part of the LVWATSAN sanitation strategy, micro credit schemes targeting poor women headed households and vulnerable groups have been initiated in Bondo, Homa Bay and Kisii (Kenya), Nyendo/ Ssenyange, Kyotera in Uganda, Bukoba Muleba in Tanzania and in the border town of Mutukula. The schenme is expected to provide improved household sanitation for some 45,000 people, mainly poor women and vulnerable groups over the next one year.
Improving the Capacity of Small Towns Dispose of Garbage
Solid waste constitutes one of the major sources of environmental pollution in the Lake Victoria Basin. The programme has therefore given priority to solid waste management with good progress already achieved in establishing a model solid waste management system for small towns. The procurement of tractors, skip trailers and containers is now almost complete and the first phase of a training programme for operators has been carried out. The preparation of guidance manuals is in progress and the systems are expected to be fully operational this year. The programme has also supported the preparation of a catchment management strategy for the towns which will be implemented in the coming months as part of a broader programme of capacity building in environmental management.
Encouraging Residents to Participate and Take Ownership
To encourage active participation by town residents and ownership of the projects by beneficiaries and other local stakeholders, Multi- Stakeholder Forums bringing together representatives of residents’ representatives, municipal authorities, service providers, local businesses, NGOs, and CBOs have been formed in the project towns. This ensures that projects implemented in each town under the Lake Victoria Initiative are demand driven, responding to the expressed needs of local stakeholders. These forums give voice to the urban poor, enabling them to engage with service providers and local authorities al government on a wide range of issues affecting service provision.
Assisting Towns to Draw Up Development Plans
Through the Initiative, UN-HABITAT is assisting the towns in preparing urban plans to guide future development and to support the design of the infrastructure works being carried out in these towns. Detailed plans have already been completed for 5 of the 7 pilot towns through a participatory process linked to training and capacity building. The plans, which form the basis for Action Plans and Investment Plans feed into local budgeting processes.
Improving Capacity to Track Improvements to Access to Water and Sanitation
UN-HABITAT has developed a specialised monitoring tool to establish baseline coverage levels and track progress towards achieving Millennium Development Goals. The Urban Inequities Survey has been implemented in 17 secondary urban centres in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, in collaboration with National Statistical Offices in each country. High resolution satellite imagery was used by the national statistics bureaus during the baseline surveys to create spatial information profiles on coverage levels for basic services such as water, sanitation, and garbage collection and disposal.