By David Njagi
With a new USD 125 cash injection from the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) on stream, East African legislators have united to give ailing Lake Victoria Basin a fresh lease.
A week long review of the Basin by East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), ended with a new push to fast track the pace of implementating the Lake Victoria Water Supply and Sanitation Programme Phase II (LVWATSAN II).
The move is seen as an effort to ease political tensions over the basin, which has over the years slowed projects meant to improve the livelihoods around the Lake Victoria Basin.
Legislators from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda agreed to share the funds to implement water and sanitation projects in two phases.
According to chairperson of EALA’s Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources, Safina Kwekwe Tsungu, LVWATSAN II is targeting 15 towns around the Lake Victoria Basin.
“This programme is one of the ways through which communities in the partner states shall fully appreciate the importance of the East African Community to the region,” said Tsungu. “Most of the misunderstandings on the ground point to an interruption in the flow of information.”
Projects expected to take off include water supply, hygiene, environmental sanitation, urban drainage Improvement, capacity building and programme management.
However, disparities in the amount of information available about project progress at all levels and the high community expectations is a concern that EALA insist needs immediate attention.
Officials say the on-spot assessment would give members of the committee on agriculture, tourism and natural resources a clear understanding of the Programme’s progress and challenges in order to support its smooth and sustainable implementation.
LVWATSAN II follows the implementation of the first phase, which focused on 10 towns within the original EAC Partner States of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, with the support of UN-HABITAT.
“The Programme is expected to run up to 2015 and it is envisaged to be expanded to other towns in the basin in subsequent phases,” says Dan Oduor Owore, the regional program coordinator, Lake Victoria Basin Commission.
Experts have linked rapid urbanization to the rising pressure on access to water and sanitation services among communities living around Lake Victoria catchment areas in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania.
This is becoming a critical issue as all countries strive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for water and sanitation, they say.
Through access to safe water supplies, they say, the new political synergy could improve the lake’s ecosystem and reverse dropping water levels it has been facing due to environmental degradation in the surrounding water catchment areas.