While the global community is taking a big turn in ensuring conservation of several natural resources to promote economic development, the time limit for the set Millennium development goals is nearly here and despite it being everyone’s right to access affordable, safe and sufficient water, sustainability still remains crucial.
Rwanda Natural Resources Authority RNRA through its water resources department in partnership with different stakeholders like Water Aid is working towards maintaining and improving the state of the current water sources in Rwanda in a plan that will pay off by doubling agriculture production from areas under irrigation to about 100,000 ha. This will also contribute to reaching the planned target in Hydropower development generating of over 563 megawatts of energy. The plan will also contribute to sustainable mining production.
Water Policy for Water Management
Rwanda water resources policy is based on the arrangement that concludes that, by the time the population increases to 13 million, there should be 100 per cent supply of safe drinking water for use in both industries and households within Rwanda.
Vicent de Paul Kabalisa, the Head of IWRM Department at RNRA says that the concept of Integrated Water Resources Management will ensure sustainable economic development with water as a key driver in achieving growth.
The water goal and similar targets directly address the development aims of societies, promote human dignity and ensure achievements are sustainable which leads to development outcomes such as health, people’sincreased prosperity, equitable societies, protected ecosystems and resilience in communities.
RNRA promoting sustainable water management
“This is done with a participation of all stakeholders involved in all sectors and since we take care of the lakes, rivers and artificial sources, we are also charged with issuing permits and license to ensure that the different people use these resources properly” Kabalisa explains.
This approach of integrated water management brings all stakeholders together to plan on how to use and monitor water sources for a better product.
Today, more than 1.7 billion people around the world live in river basins where depletion through use exceeds natural recharge a trend that will see two thirds of the world’s population living in water stressed countries by 2025.
However, according to Kabalisa, the wakeup call is to maintain our ecosystems safe and ensure that the basic needs required for maintaining hygiene and health are met and at the same time guarantee economic developmentthrough various industries.
Raising awareness on water conservation
The concept of sustainability is coming at the right time and needs to be taught to all levels. There is mostly need to reach out to the public and communities to ensure that all individuals learn how to use their water efficiently.
Besides this, society can achieve equitable health only when provided with safe water that can be used for promoting hygiene and sanitation.
But authorities still need robust and effective water governance to support existing institutions and ensure ecosystems are properly preserved as well as minimize water losses.
Working to reduce water related disasters
Globally 6 to 8 million people die from disasters related to climate and water borne infections. Worse still 2.5 billion people or 1 in 3 - lack access to improved sanitation.
With only 64 per cent of the world›s population accessing improved sanitation there is still more demand for facilities that ensure hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact.
As part of the strategy to eliminate other water related disasters, modern technologies for data collection have been put in place. One of those is real time data monitoring that uses features such as the simcards to record information about water levels using the data logger.
How per capita water distribution demands for more water
Rwanda’s water management is at critical levels now, since there is a reduction in its per capita per year. This is now estimated to be at 630m3 per person per year which is a low value compared to the standard in Africa per person per capita per year. This calls all of us to take serious measures of Integrated water resources management.
Some measures put in place
There are several measures of punishing those who pollute water by discharging the wastes directly into the water.
Improving water governance by setting up district water committees and technical water committees at central levels have been set up.
The approach has already been rolled out in Nyaruguru, Huye, Gisagara but all districts have been requested to establish their local committees.
The long term plan is to put in place more robust water institutions that can ensure that society understands the awareness on importance of water.
Funds are to be secured with the Netherlands government for a water project at an estimate of 35 million Euros for four years to ensure that water sources are developed in a sustainable manner.
While marking this year’s world water day, RNRA calls on Rwandans to understand that water is necessary now and in the future. This calls for careful management of our wetlands, our forests, our water towers, avoid polluting our rivers and lakes with all wastes and optimize all water resources when setting up structures such as dams in various catchment areas.