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Tanzania launches Mara River Water Allocation Plan

TANZANIA has finally launched the long-awaited Mara River Basin Water Allocation Plan (WAP), thanks to the Ministry of Water and Lake Victoria Water Basin Board (LVBWB) in collaboration with other partners for making it possible.

The WAP’s main objective is to regulate water utilization across sectors and thus creates balance between water for environment and economic development.

The Mara River acts as blood vessels to Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya and Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and its protection is vital for safeguarding the biodiversity and the incomes/well being generated in the areas.

Furthermore, the plan intends to address critical environmental threats facing the transboundary- river which is shared by Tanzania and Kenya.

Tanzania and Kenya signed memorandum of understanding for the sustainable management of the Mara river, and therefore the plan will be an important tool guiding water usage in the basin.

The plan was officially launched on Saturday in Mwanza city , Tanzania by the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water, Engineer Nadhifa Kemikimba on behalf of the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary(PS) Eng Anthony Sanga.

Eng Kemikimba said the presence of the Mara River Basin has significant contribution to sustainable conservation, economic and social development in Tanzania, and indeed in other neighbouring East Africa countries.

“This is a very vital river for the ecology of Mara River basin as it contributes to the economic and social sustainable development and conservation of nature,” the deputy PS said as part of her remarks during the launch event held at Ziwa Letu Hall in the LVWBWB and attended by key stakeholders, including government officials from Mara and Mwanza Regions.

However, the deputy PS thanked all partners who made development of the plan a success story. The development of WAP was supported by key conservation partners in the Mara Serengeti Ecosystem, which include the World Wide Funds for Nature Tanzania through WWF United Kingdom funding and the Sustainable Water Partnership which was a USAID initiative for Mara.

Elaborating, Eng Kemikimba ordered the basin to quickly develop the implementation of the plan while underscoring positive feedback, adding: “We now want a detailed action work plan.” Mara River is famous for its huge contribution to sustainable conservation of Serengeti ecology, where the great wildebeest annual migration, one of Serengeti’s tourist attractions takes place.

The Mara River Basin has an area of 13,325 square kilometres while the river itself begins on Mau Escarpment in Kenya, flows across Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya and Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and pours into Lake Victoria on the Tanzanian side, a distance of 395 kilometres.

Speaking during the WAP launch which was attended by Regional Administrative Secretaries of Mwanza and Mara among other stakeholders, the Director of Water Resources at the Ministry of Water, Dr George Lugomela said LVBWB has made a historic milestone being the first basin out of nine basins in Tanzania to plan and launch the new initiative, which can be visionary and adopted to other areas of the country.

Dr Lugomela said all procedures concerning resources were followed during preparations of the plan. “It is our hope that all stakeholders will help carry out this plan well to make it sustainable,” Dr Lugomela said, adding that the WAP is implementing the Water Policy of 2002 and Water Resources Management Act no. 11 of 2009.

The Board Chairman of LVBW B , Dr Bonaventure Baya said” “The WAP will help solve environmental challenges threatening the survival of Mara River, including unsustainable farming, livestock and mineral processing.” Dr Baya further said LVBWB prepared the plan to tackle the environmental challenges and many others resulting from water usage and the increasing population from 340,500 in 2012 to 460,000 this year.

Meanwhile, the Board Chairman said there was need to chart a joint plan between Tanzania and Kenya as both of them share the river’s resources.

According to Dr Baya, apart from economic benefits, the plan will help improve people’s health and environmental cleanliness in the river basin “Other benefits involve poverty reduction and increasing income for wananchi using water, solving conflicts among water users and taking control of water resources in the Mara River Basin, “ Dr Baya said.

According to the Board Director, the WAP will be used to connect Tanzania and Kenya in order to come up with a mutual plan in future. Conservation stakeholders in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem believe s that the plan is a big deal in ensuring that the ecosystem and the biodiversity remains safe and intact forever.

The WWF’s Programme Coordinator in Tanzania Office, Mr Navati Kessy says plans are underway to have the basin’s wide water allocation anchored to the East Africa(EAC) under Lake Victoria Basin Commission(LVBC) to guide water utilization in the whole basin.

“Eventually the long term the objective is to safeguard Serengeti national park, a UNESCO heritage site and Maasai Mara Game Reserve”, Mr Kessy remarked shortly after the launch of the plan. Leaders of water users’ associations expressed their support for the launch of the new plan for River Mara.

“This is good news to us. We’ve been waiting for so many years. It will be useful in solving conflicts among water users in our locations and improve collaboration,” said Lameck Nyasagati, the chairman of TOBORA water users association, comprising 24 villages in the Tanzania’s Serengeti wildlife rich district.

Nyasagati asked the authorities to intervene and take immediate action against people conducting un-sustainable farming and livestock activities at catchment areas saying the malpractice continued posing environmental concerns in the villages.

“The biggest problems in our villages are farming and livestock activities which are aggravated by political leaders issuing cunning statements in order to woo voters,” said Nyasagati who is also a board member of LVBWB.

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Author: MUGINI JACOB IN MWANZA

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