June 23, 2003

Government moves to privatise water supply

Until 1997, Tanzania's water supply and sanitation business was managed by the National Urban and Water Authority (NUWA), a state-owned institution established by an Act of Parliament in the early 1980s.

When the law establishing NUWA was repealed, the Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority Act was enacted as part of the government's economic liberalisation programme. A new water policy was also adopted to give more powers to people, especially in rural Tanzania, to start and manage their own water supply projects. The earlier policy had placed that responsibility on the government. "The new policy will help us improve the water supply system in urban centres such as Dar es Salaam by allowing private enterprise to invest in the sector," Water and Livestock Development Minister Edward Lowassa said.

Most sewerage systems in the country are dilapidated due to years of neglect caused by lack of foreign currency to import spare parts. The situation has been worsened by the rapidly increasing population. "The problem of water in Dar es Salaam is mainly caused by population growth. The current infrastructure was meant to serve not more than a million people; today there are more than over two million people in Dar es Salaam. It's evident that the current system is over-stretched," said Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Yussuf Makamba. The Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority (Dawasa) can supply 60 million gallons of clean water per day, which falls far short of the 90 million gallons needed daily by the city.

The new law and water policy recognises the vital role that the public and private sectors can play in improving water and sanitation services in the country. Most regions have already established water boards and authorities similar to Dawasa to manage water resources by giving more responsibility to the public.

Dawasa, now converted into the Public Granting Authority, has granted Biwater International of UK a 10-year lease to manage water supply services jointly with Gauff Ingenieure of Germany. Over $164 million has been provided by international financiers and the private sector to upgrade the water supply and sanitation system in the city. A separate regulatory body, Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWULA), was established by an Act of parliament in 2001 to take over the role formerly played by Dawasa.

Many private companies have already been licensed to run water supply and sanitation businesses. Trucks owned by individuals and private companies deliver clean water to city residents, while others empty sewerage tanks, a task formerly monopolised by Dawasa. In several south African countries the privatisation of water led to serious problems. A few days earlier, it was reported that in Lesotho the Water and Sewage Authority will hand over (or close) public standpipes to the communities and implement new water charges. In many countries after the privatisation the prices for water were raised and the access to water was closed for those who can not afford the new prices. (The East African, Nairobi / SADOCC)

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