|Uganda's Water Sector Development: Towards Sustainable Systems (SKAT, 1996)|
|6. Moving Forward in the Rural Water Sector|
The DWD's implementation strategy contains a number of features that are both innovative and imperative to the long-term sustainability of the sector. These features provide useful insight into the need for a pragmatic, as well as a visionary, plan for the future.
The Government insists that technology choice is based on technical, sociological and financial feasibility studies. The criteria applied include the willingness and ability of user groups to pay. It shows a clear preference for appropriate technology solutions when these can be shown to be effective and in the best interests of the recipient groups.
At present, the DWD is in the process of defining appropriate national drinking water standards. In the meantime, the DWD deems the World Health Organisation (WHO) drinking water guidelines to be desirable rather than mandatory. The DWD relaxes the requirements in some instances after taking due consideration of specific local conditions and water use habits.
The DWD does not demand the inclusion of sanitation facilities into all water supply projects. However, it calls for the assessment of needs during the planning stage. When sanitation facilities are found to be desirable, it insists that the community is involved in choosing appropriate sanitation technologies. It stipulates that an emphasis should be placed on acceptability both culturally and financially by user communities. In practice, most rural projects support the introduction of low-cost solutions such as improved latrine with Sanplat as an integral part of a water supply system.
Standardisation has become something of a mantra for many rural water supply engineers. Standardisation of equipment has many advantages. It facilitates centralised co-ordination, supervision and monitoring of sector activities; it promotes more efficient utilisation of resources and interchangeability of hardware; and it helps to sustain programme outputs.
The issue of standardisation becomes important in conditions of scarce resources. In particular, the need for standardisation reaches its most urgent in situations of extreme financial shortage, especially shortage of foreign currency. Within an open economy, the issue of standardisation becomes less critical open borders allow freer movement of pumps and spare parts. The market plays a greater role in the decision-making process. Therefore, with Uganda's embrace of a floating foreign currency exchange system, it can be argued that the issue of standardisation loses its urgency, if not its raison d'être.
In theory, the DWD supports a policy of 'standardisation'. In practice, it has implemented a policy of 'limited-use'. At deepwell sites, the DWD insists on U2 and U3 (India Mark II & III) handpumps as standard equipment on all projects, regardless of the donor or implementation agency. These pumps may have cylinder assemblies entirely of stainless steel or comprise brass-lined cast iron walls with stainless steel plungers. The DWD uses either uPVC or stainless steel rising mains and stainless steel pumping rods, except in the case where groundwater is non-aggressive. Here, galvanised iron rods and rising mains may be installed.15
For shallow settings, a formal policy decision is still pending. At the present time, modified (light handle) U3, NIRA AF85, Tara, Consallen and privately imported pumps are used. The DWD stipulates that shallow groundwater pumps installed on public works programmes must be properly field tested, have gained acceptance by the user community and be supportable under the CBMS. It promotes the use of public-domain direct action-pumps and/or pumps manufactured locally or regionally.
Health and hygiene
The Government places great importance on the dissemination of information about the correlation between safe drinking water and a decrease in water-related diseases. It places emphasis on the importance of linking low-cost sanitation with the provision of new water supplies, and accompanying both with appropriate health and hygiene education. Health promotion, hygiene education and low-cost sanitation are provided in the context of improved environmental sanitation.
Role of women
Women's involvement in design, construction, operation and maintenance of improved water supply and sanitation facilities is supported even to the extent that a separate gender policy exists for the water supply sector. The key criterion is that women and men have equal opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of community management.
More specifically, women's involvement in health promotion is safeguarded, recognising their important role in improved health of their families and in changing the behaviour of children. The Government also uses schools as vehicles for disseminating key health messages.
Sustainability and financing
Generally, financing of new installations is given low priority where maintenance of similar installations in the same area is neglected. For rural water supplies, inclusive of small towns and growth centres, community contributions towards construction are based on technology choice and raised by the beneficiaries before construction starts. The Government fixes subsidies on low-cost latrines to the poorest communities a level that will not discourage sanplat construction.
Management and institutional strengthening
One of the over-riding objectives of the Government's policies is to delegate water supply and sanitation functions to the lowest appropriate administrative levels, based (as far as possible) on the existing district and RC structures. It sees the role of the DWD as one of strengthening and adding value to the district operations rather than placing a layer of bureaucracy over them. It is attempting to improve the capacity to respond to community requests, at district and county/sub-county levels in planning, monitoring and technical service delivery.
The DWD encourages the training of beneficiaries, as they are expected to participate in the choice of water and sanitation technologies. The users also assist in the siting of water points and, where relevant, construction activities. The DWD endorses support for women's involvement in design, construction, operation and management of improved water supply and sanitation facilities. It promotes the view that women and men should have equal opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of community water management.
Water resources management interacts with activities within several sectors as well as with a number of cross-sectoral activities. This interaction can take place as impacts from activities within the particular sector. Agriculture, for instance, will have an impact on water resources through cultivation practices and use of agro-chemicals. The interaction can also take place through water use requirements of a particular sector; an example of this is the requirement for water for irrigation purposes. Thus, the DWD has a vested interest in that the activities of the interacting sectors are undertaken in a way consistent with sound water resources management principles and guidelines.
In the water supply sector, a strong partnership exists with other ministries and departments, for instance the Ministries of Health, Local Government, Gender & Community Development, and Finance & Economic Planning. For the rural WES activities, the established Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee (IMSC) that includes members from these various ministries, carries out overall co-ordination and supervision.
A considerable number of external donor agencies, NGOs and other actors play a role in the water supply sector. The DWD actively seeks to partner with these organisations. It recognises their strengths and tries to accommodate their needs. In the case of the NGO community, the Government is attempting to strengthen its relationship through the establishment of a regular forum for information exchange, project agreements through Letters of Understanding and guidelines for their operations.
Private sector involvement
The private sector has not played a significant role in the water supply sector in Uganda to date. However, the Government is committed to the privatisation process including its application to the rural water sector. The overall community-based approach, with the implication of user groups' responsibilities for, and ownership of, facilities is in itself a strong drive towards privatisation.
The DWD is planning to strengthen its use of private sector design and supervision services. It will shift responsibility for general maintenance away from it's district-based borehole maintenance units so that they can specialise in borehole repair and desilting operations. Over time most of these activities can be handed over to the private sector.
Planned borehole drilling operations over the coming years will swamp the capacity of the DWD's existing borehole drilling units. However, the DWD sees no need to increase its own drilling capacity indeed it has developed plans to reduce its capacity. In the future, it will retain only enough plant and equipment to respond to specific emergency situations. Over the past year at least one private drilling contractor has entered the market. The DWD will encourage future projects to place drilling activities in the hands of the private sector via competitive tendering procedures.
As privatisation gathers pace the DWD will shift its focus towards tasks like:
- licensing drilling contractors;
- issuing technical specifications in respect of borehole completion;
- granting drilling and abstraction permits;
- setting water quality standards as well as preparing regulations governing sampling and analysis techniques;
- drafting guidelines related to contractors' reporting requirements to maintain the centrally maintained groundwater and borehole database.16