Underneath the Water Scarcity Reality

Water is becoming scarce in most areas of Ethiopia. And the situation is affecting many aspects of life, from cooking to livestock rearing. But there seems to be no policy coherence to address this essential need. Incongruity is what has become typical to the power circle.

Any plausible government worth its political policy of developmental democracy should concentrate its priorities on the construction of roads and other economic infrastructure. But any mode of government, anywhere in the world, gives the vitality of staying alive its priority of first order. Consequently, there is nothing more essential than the provision of adequate, clean potable water.

The prevailing situation in Ethiopia is that various cities and towns are being flooded. A growing number of people, especially youth, are fleeing in search of employment and seeking refuge from the current climatic pressure, not to forget normal population growth.

It goes without saying that the demand for water has become a serious concern more than any time before. This is of vital priority for a democratic developmental party more than anyone else.

In a few sectors of major cities, water may be required for the gardens, washing vehicles or flushing toilets. In the northern part of Addis Abeba, for example, the normal provision of water is being augmented by deep well water, rationed on an irregular basis.

There is no other option for people living in these areas than buying water from water vendors at a very high price. In fact, what has become an additional burden for many members of the poor community, has become a thriving source and an unexpected windfall for a few greedy opportunists.

The end of every effort being to live a decent life, no member of the governing party should fall prey to the heart-melting rhetoric of developmental theory. Such talk does not even make sense adequate enough to fill a jerry can of water worth a human life.

Ethiopia draws its sources of water mainly from rain, underground water, reservoirs and a few rivers that may flow sustainably. Addis Abeba, being a city located at a higher altitude, sources it water from both temporal rain and water accumulated behind dams. Some of the sources are Legedadi, Dire and Gefersa. Reports indicate that these sources have, of late, seen a reduction in water generation capacity. Underground water sources are not only being depleted faster than expected, but have also become too costly to operate and are easily vulnerable because of technical defects in their drawing systems.

The Addis Abeba Water & Sewerage Authority (AAWSA) had established water committees consisting of randomly selected members who were believed to represent the dwellers of their respective kebeles and weredas. When I was in Addis Abeba about two years ago, I was among those representing the northern districts and attended two periodic sessions, one at the northern AAWSA Office and another in the compound of the Ministry of Water Resources, now Ministry of Water, Irrigation & Electricity (MoWIE). Both sessions were chaired by the then Minister, Alemayehu Tegenu.

In both sessions, I raised the same question that goes back to the proposals of Argawi Triruneh (Eng.), among other things, constructing the Sibilu and Gerba water dam projects. These projects ought to have augmented the supply of adequate and potable water on a sustainable basis. The torrential rain pouring down these days could have effectively been collected by the Siblu and Gerbi dams.

Water is not something one can import from foreign sources. The rivers like Kebena have turned out to be dumping grounds. In the face of this acute water problem, in what may seem to be an absurdity, the Ministry of Health is currently advising the public to keep clean as much as possible, to be free from rapid diarrhoea.

Apparently, there is a lack of coherence among the top notch officials, some of whom talk about the older figure of 11pc growth, while the Prime Minister of the same party speaks about the adjusted seven per cent growth rate. We remember a couple of weeks ago, the Deputy Prime Minister who controls the largest group of ministries, was estimating the population of Addis Abeba at around three million.

Is there a real team work spirit among the uppermost echelons of power?

In some of the bigger towns and in Addis Abeba, the shortage of water is exacerbated by an interrupted supply of energy. Access to potable water is also very dependent on the supply of electric power as pumping uses energy.

The water scarcity felt in most areas of the country is also aggravated by both population growth and the climate factor. The country is in dire need of ensuring the sustainability of human life, be it in the form of the supply of water or electricity. We should also remember the high price we are paying as a result of depending on foreign ports.

I was trying to find some factors that can be attributed to the causes of the frequent failure of the emergency telephone number and interruptions to the electricity flow. Maybe the Prime Minister’s apology and the wrong window-dressing on good governance and corruption could be stretched to cover this one as well.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Apr 19,2016 [ Vol 16 ,No 833]



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