Minister Sekindi warns against high water charges

Minister Sekindi warns against high water charges

By Andrew Cohen Amvesi 

MARACHA. The State Minister of Water in the Ministry of Water and Environment, Aisha Sekindi has warned service providers against over charging locals at public water sources.

Minister excites officials as she drunk water from one of the points she commissioned in Maracha on Thursday. Photo by Andrew Cohen Amvesi

Sekindi said it has come to their notice that people are running away from government water points and they are going back to local water sources because of high pricing.

“So, that is not the intention of our government. We need our people healthy and there is no way they can be healthy when they are taking poor quality water,” Sekindi said during the commissioning of Okokoro water supply system and sanitation facilities in Okokoro Town Council, Maracha district on Thursday.

The shs3.697bn Okokoro piped water supply system and sanitation facility project being implemented by the Ministry of Water and Environment through Water and Sanitation Development Facility – North was funded by the government of Uganda with support from the German government through KFW Development Bank and with consulting Engineers Salzgitter (CES) as the International Management Consultant.

The one-year project was undertaken by Reddy’s Borehole Technical Services and M/S.

According to Eng. Yusuf Lule, a senior Engineer in the Ministry of Water and Environment who doubles as the deputy branch manager for water and sanitation development facility – North, the components of the project include water supply and institutional facilities.

Minister Sekindi hands over a bucket of water fetched from one of the public taps in Okokoro to a resident after commissioning the system on Thursday. Photo by Andrew Cohen Amvesi

“For water supply, we have constructed two pump stations each producing approximately 9,000 liters of water per hour and they will be operated concurrently so that we meet the demand within the shortest time possible that is if we are using solar but if we are using hydro power, then we can have prolonged hours of pumping,” Lule said.

“From there, we constructed pipelines which are categorized in transmission and distribution mains. The distribution mains cover a total of 24 villages within Okokoro Town Council and Kijomoro Sub County area and we have managed to construct a total of 351-yard taps. All these are connected and they are all receiving water,” Lule added.

But while handing over the completed system to Northern Umbrella of water and sanitation to undertake its operation and maintenance, Sekindi directed that no local should pay more than shs50 for a jerrycan of water at the government facility.

Minister hands over the keys of a motorcycle and a tricycle to Eng. Tugume to help his team in the operation of the project. Photo by Andrew Cohen Amvesi

“Northern Umbrella, be careful with our community members paying higher. It is in our manifesto and NDP3 and it is again a directive by His Excellency that by 2030, we should have a water source at every compound but for us as a ministry, we are intending to extend water at compound level. So, there is no way we can do it when we are giving water at a high price,” Sekindi said.

“So, tell these people of Maracha that they should not buy a jerrycan of water more than shs50. In Okokoro and Kijomoro sub-counties, I’m told we are remaining with 18 villages, I’m assuring you that we shall make extension to those remaining villages only when you assure us that you people who are going to use this water are willing to pay that shs50 so that they can maintain what they have and make more extensions,” Sekindi remarked.

The Okokoro piped water facility

Eng. Nicholus Tugume, the manager of the Northern Umbrella of water and sanitation said the facility is currently serving roughly 10,000 people and in 20 years to come, about 40,000 people will benefit from it.

“We want to protect this asset so that by that time we have the ability for the system to operate fully and be able to serve the way it was designed to serve,” Tugume said.

He urged the community to join hands with the officials from the ministry in ensuring that the system is well operated.

David Low, the Deputy Head of Development Cooperation in the Germany Embassy in Uganda noted that his government contributed 23m Euros towards the success of the project.

“I consider this event so important today because access to safe water, access to sanitation infrastructure, access to waste management is a human right and everyone should have access to it. So, in that regard, I’m very happy that we have this infrastructure now and that it will improve living standards of the people here and that is a very important part of our cooperation with the Ugandan government,” Low said.

In his remarks, Stephen Obitre, the Maracha district chairperson said the people of Maracha have been suffering a lot in accessing safe and clean water.

“Now that the government has delivered, we have already achieved the output of this project; the structures are there, the water is flowing, now we are waiting to see the outcome from you. You should now be having a healthy life; good water goes with a healthy life,” Obitre said.

“You have been wasting a lot of money on drugs. If you go to Kijomoro health center that is in the catchment area, the greatest number of diseases diagnosed there are water borne related. We have typhoid, we have diarrhea, dysentery skin disease, red eyes, all those are water related. I’m very sure if you make good use of this water facility, you are going to reduce this burden,” Obitre advised.

Monica Ayikoru, a mother of two and a resident of Mundru cell in Okokoro Town Council commended the government for the project, saying it will save her from the long distance she has been trekking in search of water.

“I’m very happy that water has now been brought closer to me. I used to fetch water from a stream which is 1.5km away from my home. It was very difficult for me as a person living with HIV. I’m so happy for our government for this project because I can now fetch water from home,” Ayikoru said.

Rtd. Capt. Yasin Matata Buga, the Maracha RDC urged locals to own the project and use it to embrace the Parish Development Program (PDM), a government program aimed at alleviating poverty.

According to Eng. Richard Matua, the Assistant Commissioner in the Ministry of Water and Environment, so far, the safe water coverage in urban areas stands at 72 per cent.

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