THE Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children issued a health advisory on hand hygiene to prevent the spread of corona virus where the public is required to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash hands with soap and running water.
Amid the government, scientists and health care workers efforts to deal with the pandemic, a new challenge seems to emerge that could jeopardize all the effort—inadequate access to potable water. However, according to the Deputy Minister for Water, Jumaa Aweso the problem is artificial.
It has been created especially in areas with already existing tap water connections. He said in a budget speech of the ministry that 70.1 per cent of the population had access to clean water supply in rural areas and 84 per cent in urban areas as of March this year.
This is an increase from 79 per cent of urban population and 37 per cent of rural residents who had access to water in 2015. Mr Aweso accused water utilities for disconnecting their customers either for unpaid bills or recklessly.
He instructed the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) to ensure potable water supply to everyone, especially during the pandemic.
“We can have some form of arrangements that those with a chunk of unpaid debt must be reconnected after agreeing to pay in installments... We need to ensure people have access to clean water supply regardless,” said the Deputy Minister.
Observers have it that most people defaulted on payment after being overcharged. The Deputy Minister agrees that it makes no sense when an individual household is required to pay for as high as 30 units monthly an equivalent of twenty-litres of bucket daily.
“This is a person who does not even own a garden ... do they use five minutes with non-stop running water when brushing their teeth…,” he said a problem may be on the water meters.
A resident of Dodoma Central Business District, Mwajuma Issa, has told the “Daily News” that she was once a victim of water disconnection after the Dodoma Water Supply and Sewerage Authority intensified its service disconnection to defaulting customers.
“Not like I was served with a notice as required but I only found out my water meter was missing when I ran out of supply for like three days,” she said. “Initially when I contacted them they said I had unsettled arrears and that my last month bill was 135,000/-.”
The customer was irritated that she has been a good client paying her bills on time but of late she received high bills even though some weeks end she and her family were not in the capital city hence not using their service. “This was unusual because at first, we used to pay less than 20,000/- a month now how do you explain that huge amount nevertheless I don’t operate a machine.”
EWURA’s Acting Director of Water and Sanitation, Titus Safari admits that a big number of complaints reported at the authority regarding the water sector are related to water billing disputes that hold 65.8 per cent. Other complaints included tariffs (7.9 per cent), unreliable water supply (7.4 per cent), delayed connection (6.3 per cent) and disconnections (6.3 per cent).
He said water utilities are required to issue a seven-day notice before disconnecting water services for a customer who has not paid bills for the past 30 days. “When reading, officers from the water utility firm are required to show to either member of the household the previous and current reading so both can be able to understand the amount they’re required to pay,” he said adding.
“The customer must be informed of their rights and responsibility to water service.” The Deputy Minister told EWURA to develop some forms where a person reading water meter and a representative of a household will sign to show they are consenting being involved in the entire process.
“This will eliminate unnecessarily complaints especially with some people not being involved during the meter reading process,” he noted. Mr Aweso said alternatively the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority—Ewura must conduct regular inspections of all water meters especially to familiarize with how the process is conducted.
He said that some meters are malfunctioning and that some utilities have been imposing bills to customers contrary with the actual volume used.
A report titled “the man ager’s non-revenue water handbook for Africa” published by World Bank Institute and USAID acknowledges that one of the major challenges facing water utilities in the developing world is the high level of water losses—from physical losses (leakage), theft of water from the system, or because of water users are not being properly billed.
The government believes that proper billing process could facilitate equitable access to clean and safe water across communities. Tanzania National Water Policy of 2002 highlights among other things to improve water access to at least 400 meters from people’s residences.
The plan also was translated in the country’s development vision 2025 in which it targets to increase access to potable water in rural communities by at least 85 per cent in 2020 and 95 per cent in 2025.
EWURA’S Acting Director-General Eng. Godfrey Chibulunje assured the deputy minister his team would work on the plan to ensure all regulated utilities comply with the existing laws, rules and regulations. The ministry of water announced in the national assembly that it was committed to ensuring 85 per cent of rural residents have access to water by 2020.
It said it is implementing some 558 water projects in which 268 projects that benefit over 1.5million people will be completed this year.
Also, it was rehabilitating additional 1,215 water projects in 2,476 villages that would support over 2.43million people. Nevertheless, a project dubbed “Pay for Results” is helping to implement some 513 water projects in 1,055 villages that will benefit 2.32 million other people this year to battle Covid-19.