Members of Parliament have tasked officials from the Ministry of Water and Environment to ensure the availability and sustainability of ground water sources like boreholes and gravity water flow schemes especially in rural areas.
The MPs on the Natural Resources Committee were meeting the officials from the Ministry led by State Minister for Environment, Hon. Mary Goretti Kitutu. The officials were responding to concerns in the Ministerial Policy Statement for the financial year 2018/19.
MPs noted that many boreholes around the country were no longer functional, subjecting locals to collecting water from unclean sources and eventually leading to a rise in water borne diseases.
“You have very good statistics of coverage yet the actual percentage on ground is small. I have intervened in repairs of boreholes in my constituency yet it is your jurisdiction,” said Hon. Thomas Tayebwa (NRM, Ruhinda North ).
The Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Alex Byarugaba (NRM, Isingiro South) asked the Ministry to invest in maintenance of boreholes so as to sustain efficiency of water supply to residents in areas where they are situated.
The Commissioner for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation, Eng. Joseph Oriono Eyatu said however, that the Ministry needed additional funding to effectively maintain the 62,000 boreholes countrywide.
“The total maintenance burden is high with 12,000 boreholes not working,” said Eng. Oriono, adding that “we request for shs10 billion for repair and maintenance.”
MPs noted that provision of free water to locals would not be sustainable, given the current cost of living.
Rwampara County MP, Hon. Charles Ngabirano noted that, “There will reach a time when amenities have to be paid for; we need semi-commercialisation of water services.”
Hon. Byarugaba asked the officials why there were no boreholes in urban centres, given that there was urgent need for water facilities in such areas. The Ministry officials attributed this to housing density and poor sanitation facilities.
Hon. Mary Goretti Kitutu noted the need to protect natural water sources and catchment areas for adequate availability of water for locals.
“We need to relocate people away from river banks to avoid river silting that is majorly caused by poor agricultural practices,” Kitutu said.
She added that the Ministry was in the process of attracting funding to improve the forestry sector, adding that there was increased demand for seedlings given that nurseries were performing below capacity.
“We have a tree planting allocation of shs 24 billion but the Ministry of Finance distributes funds quarterly, yet we have only two planting seasons. We need to ring fence this money,” Kitutu said.
According to the Ministry officials, the District Water and Sanitation Conditional Grants led to increase in the threshold for maintenance of rural water supply facilities from eight per cent to 13 per cent in response to increasing number of boreholes in need of repair.