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close this bookUganda's Water Sector Development: Towards Sustainable Systems (SKAT, 1996)
close this folder4. Establishing Sectoral Policies
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentEarly investigations
View the documentProcess of development
View the documentEmerging national policy framework
View the documentNew framework documents


After years of mis-management, Uganda began to recognise the need for an effective framework to regulate and develop its water resources. There is a requirement within a democratised society to embark on policies that are visionary in their formulation of future objectives and targets, yet flexible enough in their implementation to fit into the existing political, economic and social framework. The rural water supply sector's policies combine these overall 'big picture' objectives with the pragmatic approaches so necessary for success.

Early investigations

Once the NRM Government had stabilised internal security, it showed that it was both willing and able to embrace the changes necessary to rebuild Uganda. Work started in earnest to re-establish the Government's policy planning mechanisms. At the national level, the Ministry of Finance was duplicating macro-economic activities undertaken by the Ministry of Economic Planning. Therefore, the two organisations merged to form the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MFEP). Assisted by advisors from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank (WB), MFEP staff have played an instrumental role in policy reform, both as innovators of reforms and co-ordinators of inputs.

Within the water sector, MWMD, assisted by the Nairobi-based UNDP/World Bank Regional Water and Sanitation Group (RWSG), undertook initial surveys. The RWSG completed a joint report with the MWMD in March 1989. It identified that several ministries and agencies, none of them adequately funded, were responsible for water supply and sanitation services. It highlighted that "the (reported) service levels do not reflect the actual situation since most systems are inadequately operated and maintained and most of them are out of service".9 . The report called for the establishment of a strong national policy direction and co-ordination of development to ensure equitable treatment of the whole population. It further recommended:

- development and strengthening of water sector organisations;
- gradual introduction of cost recovery procedures;
- acceleration of sector decentralisation and promotion of community participation;
- adjustment of service levels and technologies to the issue of affordability;
- standardisation of equipment and promotion of local production.

The scene was set. Rural water supply developments would be targeted at a broad cross-section of society, especially those underprivileged at the present time. However, the communities would have to share in the costs — both of implementation and of maintenance. They, along with the Government, would take responsibility for the sustainable operation of any future schemes.

Process of development

Despite funding constraints, the Government acted upon many of the early recommendations. A follow-up report on behalf of the RWSG proposed a long-term sector structure based on the principle that cost consciousness and efficiency are closely related to de facto economic responsibility and ownership.10 It recommended that the MWMD's Water Development Department (WDD) be streamlined in its responsibilities to:

- policy formulation;
- legal aspects and regulation enforcement;
- water resource administration and data collection;
- management and auditing of user associations;
- investment planning and donor co-ordination.

It was clear that the pre-conditions existed in Uganda to facilitate the required changes in organisational set-up and shift in responsibilities. Senior ministerial officers and decision-makers maintained a realistic view on the economic situation and possibilities. An open-minded and results-oriented attitude towards problem solving prevailed. At the ground level RCs were proving to be an effective link between communities and Government institutions.

However, the MWMD (and latterly the MNR) made relatively slow progress. This was partly due to a lack of funding and technical assistance. While the donor community was relatively forthcoming with funds for field activities, it had not yet fully grasped the level of support required to restructure the WDD. The first, large donor funds were directed at an emergency rural water and sanitation rehabilitation programme in the early-to-mid 1980s that paved the way for the UNICEF/SIDA/CIDA/NORAD-financed SWIP project. The DWD was formed as a prerequisite to solicit funding and plan investment. A donors' consultative meeting in 1991 — based on the document, National Planning Strategy: Rural Water Supply Programme — gave impetus and subsequently accelerated water sector development activities.

Since the early seventies, from the first global environmental conference in Stockholm in 1972, to the UN global summit on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro twenty years later, there has been an increasing awareness and much talk about principles of managing water resources — and the need for having national policies in place. With financial support from the Danish International Development Assistance (Danida), Uganda was one of the first countries to go beyond the rhetoric of the international conferences by formulating a national Water Action Plan. The Uganda Water Action Plan was prepared during the period 1993 - 1994.

Given the changing priorities and needs of the country, an evolving and dynamic framework was required, rather than a traditional prescriptive ("top-down") master plan. The emerging national policy framework for water resources shows that the process is working.

Emerging national policy framework

Development of a new framework for rural water supply and sanitation took place against a background of emerging national policies. During the last five years Uganda has investigated many of the most basic questions about its political, economic and social future. It has revisited its past, accepted the present and looked into the future. The emerging national policy framework for rural water supply fits into a wider framework for national development.

The new Constitution charges that the State shall control important natural resources — including water — on behalf of the people, and manage and utilise them for the development and welfare of the people. Also enshrined in the Constitution is the need for the State to ensure that it manages Uganda's natural resources in a "sustainable" manner. Important, basic statements regarding water appear in the Constitution:

"XIV General social and economic objectives

The State shall endeavour to fulfil the fundamental rights of all Ugandans to social justice and economic development and shall, in particular, ensure that —
(a) .....
(b) all Ugandans enjoy rights and opportunities and access to education, health services, clean and safe water, work, decent shelter, adequate clothing, food security, and pension and retirement benefits.

XXI Clean and safe water

The State shall take all practical measures to promote good water management systems at all levels.

XXVII The Environment

The State shall promote sustainable development and public awareness of the need to manage land, air and water resources in a balanced and sustainable manner for the present and future generations."
Republic of Uganda, 4th Constitution

The National Environment Management Policy, published in 1994 further elaborates these overall statements. Its overall policy goal of "sustainable social and economic development" rests within parameters of maintenance or enhancement of environmental quality and resource productivity on a long-term basis. It includes a key policy statement on water resource conservation and management, the objective being:

"to sustainably manage and develop the water resources in a co-ordinated and integrated manner so as to provide water of acceptable quality for all social and economic needs".
National Environment Management Policy

The National Environment Management Policy (1994) was followed up by enactment of the Environment Management Statute (1995).

New framework documents

Within the context of these clear, over-riding national requirements, the Ministry of Natural Resources has developed a series of water sector framework documents consisting of three main codes:
- The Water Statute, 1995;
- National Water Policy (still under review, not yet finalised/approved);
- Uganda Water Action Plan.
These documents form a solid basis for appropriate water resource management as well as sound water uses in Uganda.

The Water Statute, 1995

The existing laws governing the water sector in Uganda were scattered through a variety of legislation and administered by a number of ministries and departments. In the past this has resulted in overlaps and conflicts. In the period 1992 to 1994, a Consultant was engaged to draw up revised legislation to adequately cover present and envisaged future requirements.
The Water Statute, 1995, provides the legal framework for overall control and administration of water resources in Uganda. It also specifies essential water control functions such as water extraction and wastewater discharge permits. The Statute was enacted by Parliament in November 1995.
The objectives of the Statute are:

(a) to provide for the use, protection and management of water resources and supply;
(b) to provide for the constitution of water supply and sewerage undertakings; and
(c) to facilitate the devolution of water supply and sewerage undertakings."
The Water Statute, 1995

The Statute seeks to promote the rational management and use of the waters of Uganda. It endeavours to encourage the provision of a clean, safe and sufficient supply of water for domestic purposes to all persons. Further aims include the orderly development and use of water for non-domestic use and controls on water pollution.
Because the Statute, to a large extent, is an empowering act, subsidiary regulations, in the final stages of being drafted, are required to put the Statute into practical operation.

National Water Policy (draft under discussion)

Foreign financing characterises water supply development in Uganda. Bilateral and multilateral donors, the World Bank, NGOs and private sector organisations promote a widely varying range of views. They often differ on philosophies and approaches to implementation of schemes, as well as to operation and maintenance.

The DWD has identified a clear need to improve the efficiency of the sector and to derive maximum benefit from the available resources. Therefore, it is in the process of finalising a sector policy document that will help bring about such an improvement in efficiency and facilitate co-operation and collaboration among the many sector participants. The final document will consist of appropriate sub-sector guidelines and standards.

The Constitution states that all Ugandans are entitled to clean and safe water. The Government, therefore, has a duty to allocate sufficient priority to this basic human right. Within the context of prioritisation, the draft National Water Policy proposes that:

"The first priority in water resources allocation will be the provision of water in adequate quantity and quality to meet domestic demands.

Allocation of water to meet irrigation, livestock, industrial and other demands will be done considering the economic, social and environmental value of water."

Uganda Water Action Plan

An integrated team of Ugandan and Danish water resources experts (the WAP team) prepared the Water Action Plan over the period 1993 to 1994. Published in 1995, the Water Action Plan consists of fourteen documents—four 'project' documents and ten 'results' documents (see panel for details). It is an important milestone in the process of improving the framework for water resources development and management in Uganda.11 The Water Action Plan provides guidelines and strategies for the protection and development of Uganda's water resources and a structure for their management. The Water Action Plan re-formulated the overall policy objective for the water resources sector to read:

"to manage and develop the water resources of Uganda in an integrated and sustainable manner, so as to secure and provide water of adequate quantity and quality for all social and economic needs"

The Water Action Plan defines actions leading to the establishment of an enabling environment for flexible water resource management. It defines management roles and identifies appropriate institutional structures.

The outputs of the WAP formulation process consisted of:
- identification of the key water resources management functions and the appropriate levels at which they should be performed;
- an institutional framework for water resources management at the national, district and community levels;
- long and short term strategies for establishing water resources management in Uganda;
- training and capacity building needs to implement the short term strategy.

Related activities included:
- formulation of a national water resources policy;
- assessment of the existing situation of water resources in Uganda, both surface water and groundwater;
- creation of a groundwater database;
- drafting of detailed management procedures for a water extraction permit system, to be used as an input to the drafting of subsidiary Regulations to the Water Statute, and as a future management tool;
- drafting of detailed management procedures for a wastewater discharge permit system, for the same purpose as above;
- listing of the existing water resources plans and projects and proposing guidelines of how they can be prioritised;
- detailing of the actions needed in the short term to initiate the implementation and monitoring of the Water Action Plan.

Water action plan documents

Water Action Plan
WAP Phase I
- a rapid assessment of the water resources situation in the physical and management context;
- a preliminary proposal for the establishment of an enabling environment for flexible water resources management with linkages between land and water resources, and including suggestions for management roles and functions at various levels, and suitable institutional structures;
- a preliminary outline of a national water resources policy;
- preparation of detailed project proposals for specific projects in the water resources sector.
WAP Phase II
- a draft water resources policy accompanied by target descriptions and brief guidelines;
- an outline proposal for appropriate local water resources management levels based on district studies;
- an outline proposal for management procedures providing the administrative machinery at national and district levels with guidelines for sustainable water resources management;
- a design of a groundwater database and a plan/guidelines for interaction between the various existing and future computerised systems relevant to water resources management;
- support to the preparation of regulations supporting the Water Resource Statute regarding surface water and groundwater abstraction as well as wastewater discharge;
- an outline of training and capacity building activities supporting the appropriate sectors in water resources management;
- a project catalogue with proposed priorities for projects identified during the Water Action Plan Phases I & II;
- a draft Water Action Plan synthesising the activities carried out in a coherent presentation;
- implementation and monitoring guidelines for the subsequent Water Action Plan implementation;
- a national Seminar for discussion of the draft Water Action Plan by concerned parties.
Source: Uganda Water Action Plan

Agenda 21 - Addressing the Question of Sustainability

The Uganda Water Action Plan is one of the first official responses to the guiding principles on water laid down at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 — the so-called Agenda 21.

Principle 1: Fresh water is a finite and vulnerable resource, essential to sustain life, development and the environment.
What is needed is a holistic approach to water resources management—one which links economic and social development to the protection of natural ecosystems.

Principle 2: Land and water resources should be managed at the lowest appropriate level.
Decisions and actions concerning water resources management should be taken by those who are affected by them. Depending on the nature of the issues, the forum might be a household, a meeting of two community groups, or an international river basin committee.

Principle 3: The Government has an essential role as an enabler in a participatory, demand-driven approach to development.
Legislation, structures and procedures should make up a framework within which there can be participation, by all interested parties, in the analysis of problems and the taking of actions.

Principle 4: Water should be considered as a social and economic good, with a value reflecting its most valuable potential use.
To encourage conservation and protection, the true economic value of water resources should always be taken into account when prioritising potential uses - without infringing the basic right of all people to have access to clean water at affordable prices.

Principle 5: Water and land use management should be integrated.
The planning of both land and water development projects should take into account the interrelationships - and the fundamental way in which ecosystems regulate both water quantity and quality.

Principle 6: Women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water.
Though women are so obviously active in providing and using water, they are far less involved in its management. Special efforts should be made to facilitate women's effective participation in decision-making forums concerned with water resources.

Principle 7: The private sector has an important role in water management.
Also, special efforts should be made to sensitise private sector resource managers to the benefits of sound water - because, collectively, these managers have a significant impact on water resources.
Source: Uganda Water Action Plan