22 Mar 2012

Maji Week, World Water Day, what more can we say?

Photo from Tanzania Journalists' Alliance
Over the past two years, this blog has repeatedly looked at Tanzania's water sector. We've looked at survey data on the state of water supply services, at citizens' attitudes to water and sanitation issues, at how the media and politicians engage in the sector, and at how the sector as a whole operates.

Today is World Water Day, the culmination of Maji Week, with the national "celebrations" taking place this year in Iringa. But rather than look for another aspect of the sector to analyse, let's look back at what this blog has said about Tanzania's water sector over the past two years, with 10 interesting facts about rural water supply:

1. The best data on water supply in Tanzania shows that only 40% of rural households have access to clean and safe water.

2. Almost half (46%) of public waterpoints in rural Tanzania are not functioning. If even half the non-functional waterpoints were still working, access would be up around 60%, almost enough to meet the MKUKUTA and MDG targets.

3. New funding for rural water supply is being spent in communities that already have relatively good access to clean and safe water. New projects go where people have political connections, not where the projects are needed most.

4. When rural Tanzanian citizens are asked about their priorities, water supply regularly comes top of the list. The 2008 Afrobarometer survey, for example, found that water supply was rural citizens' top priority for government action, and water and sanitation services had lower satisfaction ratings than other key sectors.

5. Water supply is a low profile issue in national media and politics. Water supply was not a big campaign issue in the 2010 general election. It did not appear in any of the main parties' lists of top priorities, and media coverage of water supply dropped during the election campaign.

6. Sustainability of rural water supplies is not being taken seriously, either when new projects are constructed or in terms of looking after older schemes.

7. We've spent $300 million to go backwards. Tanzania has spent $300 million dollars on rural water supply over five years, which will deliver water for around 400 villages and around 1 million people. And in those same five years, the rural population of Tanzania has increased by over 2 million people.

8. The politics of water supply are getting hot, at least at the grassroots. Public protests in some areas, communities giving up hope for government action, and wealthy MPs and others spending their own money on water projects, are all signs that people are unhappy with the sector's performance.

9. Rapid population growth means that the best hope for water supply in Tanzania might be family planning. Tanzania population is projected by the UN to rise to 172 million by 2060. Providing clean and safe water to that many people is going to be a huge challenge.

10. The world is doing well on water supply, but leaving Tanzania behind. Access to clean and safe water is lower now in Tanzania than it was in 1990, and we've been overtaken by our neighbours.