They say water is life. And because life is a whole bank of absurdity, perhaps there is no paradox at all in the situation in which City of Kigali dwellers find themselves in as taps keep dry, only sputtering to life once in a while.
For the better part of last month, Gikondo, Kicukiro, Samuduha, Kimisange, Busanza, Remera, Nyamirambo, Kanombe, and Kabeza suburbs suffered water shortage. The trend has yet to be reversed. This has affected most businesses in the areas.
When The New Times visited Kajecye well in Kabeza at the weekend, there were winding queues of residents from the neighbouring Remera and Kanombe suburbs waiting to fetch water from the only source in the area.
Andre Rumanzi, a resident of Kabeza, said he had returned home to dry taps for a whole week.
The Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) attributes the shortage to “irresponsible and excessive” use of water and the dry season amid rising demand mostly in the City of Kigali.
Water consumption per capita, according to EWSA, has significantly increased as a result of economic development of the country and the increasing number of Kigali residents, in particular, yet the investment in water has not increased at the same pace in the last 20 years.
Seeing the roses in crisis
Augustin ‘Mzee’ Ruremesha, a businessman in Giporoso, Remera, is cashing in on the shortage.
Ruremesha says he sells more than 100 jerrycans of water daily and sometimes doubles when there is a water crisis in neighbourhoods like Samuduha, Kanombe and Kabeza.
“I sell a jerrycan of water at Rwf100 and there are some people who come to fetch here and resell the water at a higher price. I always reserve like 2,000 litres of water in my tanks.”
Adapting to the shortage
The issue of water shortage is affecting many people, but in some areas, residents appear resigned to the scarcity.
Geoffrey Tumushime, from Gikondo, said at times they go for two weeks without water, forcing them to buy jerrycans of water each at Rwf100.
“Doing laundry is now a luxury. Sometimes I don’t cook and just eat in a restaurant. I also have a problem with sanitation since there is no running water. EWSA should seriously look into this issue.”
However, Theoneste Minani, the director of water in EWSA, dismissed the general outcry as “exaggerated.”
“People should not exaggerate; since it’s now raining, water shortage is not a problem to cause us headache,” Minani said.
He said it is southern Kigali that is still experiencing shortage, especially in areas like Gikondo, Kicukiro, Samuduha, Kimisange and Busanza in Kicukiro District.
Many institutions say their operations have been affected because the water supply does not meet the demand.
At Riviera High School in Rusororo, Gasabo District, administration said they have not had water for the past three weeks. The school says already it has spent about Rwf4m on water, which they buy at Rwf100,000 a truck.
“We have no choice and can’t close the school,” John Okech, the director, said. “We hope for the best with the onset of rain.”
Yet EWSA officials refuted the Riviera claims, saying the school’s neighbourhood has no problem of water shortage.
At Kigali Institute of Education (KIE), they use 100,000 litres cubic meters (100 m3) of water per day, yet EWSA provides them with barely half of that unit.
Jean Damascène Niyonzima, in charge of maintenance at the university, said: “Since 2003, we asked EWSA to give us a private channel that we do not share with the other clients, we had even paid Rwf6m for the project, but they did not consider it.”
He added: “We are obliged to share the little we have but there is a cost for that; we have a big population and sanitation might become a problem if nothing changes.”
KIE has more than 8,000 students, plus 300 staff. Much of the water goes to the toilets, kitchen and general cleaning.
EWSA said KIE case is special because the school is actually supplied through lower capacity infrastructure and water reaches their tanks at lower pressure.
A study of the project that would address the issue is worth Rwf20 million, he said.
“It’s an issue we shall discuss with the Ministry of Education”, said Minani.