June 7, 2006

Zanzibar, Japan sign US $13-million water development pact

Tanzania's semiautonomous island of Zanzibar and the Japanese government have signed an agreement for a US $13-million three-year water supply project designed to boost provision of the commodity in the island's urban areas. According to the Japanese ambassador, Katsuya Ikeda, who signed the agreement on his government's behalf, said that boreholes, reservoirs and pipelines would be built under the Zanzibar Urban Water Project Supply Development Project.

Water supply for the majority of Zanzibar's one million people had been free of charge but the government recently amended the Water Act to enable it to charge consumers for water supplied. Opposition members of parliament in Zanzibar's House of Representatives opposed the Bill to restrict the use of water and the introduction of a tariff system, on grounds that the majority of Zanzibaris were too poor to pay for the service. However, the law was passed and Karume assented it into law in May.

The new law allows the Zanzibar Water Authority (ZWA) to sell water to residents, most of whom experienced an acute water shortage due to a drought that recently swept the East African region. The law prohibits pollution of waterworks or catchment areas and construction of buildings near such facilities. It imposes a prison term of six months to a year or a fine of $300 to $1,000 for those found guilty. Furthermore, the Zanzibar chief minister, Shamsi Vuai Nahodha, had ordered the demolition of at least 350 homes built near water reservoirs, springs, boreholes and wells in April.

The Zanzibar minister of water, construction, energy and lands, Mansoor Yussuf Himid, said there "would be no exception" in paying for water, "even religious institutions - such as mosques and churches - would have to pay water at the rates to be released later". "The implementation of the new policy has been enacted and will soon be put into force after the completion of water regulations and rules," Yussuf said. He also claimed that the implementation of the water project water would greatly benefit Zanzibaris. "Currently, 49 percent of the rural population and 25 percent of the urban dwellers have no piped water," he said. "This situation needs to change before 2020, and water targets for Zanzibar are to increase access of urban populations to safe water from 75 percent to 95 percent, and from 51 percent to 60 percent for urban and rural population respectively by 2010." (Rts)

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