Directors and experts from the Water ministry and the Regional Administration and Local Governments wing of the Prime Minister’s Office are gathered in a Dar es Salaam hotel for, as usually happens, a meeting with a number of supposedly crucial items on the agenda.
Also attending the annual forum are the governing board chairpersons and chief executive officers of the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (Ewura), Dar es Salaam Water and Sewage Authority (Dawasa) and Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Corporation (Dawasco).
Other delegates are the governing board directors and managing directors of water and sewerage agencies operating at regional, city, municipal, district and township level as well as various other water sector stakeholders.
According to the organisers of the meeting, among the delegates are those representing 20 regional and 107 district headquarters of agencies overseeing the provision of water and sewerage services in urban areas across mainland Tanzania.
They say the meeting is meant as an opportunity for the delegates to make a comparative analysis of the agencies’ performance over the last year, with a view to improving the implementation of national poverty reduction and economic empowerment strategies and achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals.
Anyone with an idea of the state of urban water supply and sanitation in Tanzania or who knows about how things ought to be for conditions in the areas under consideration to be conducive enough will appreciate the weight of the issues the Dar es Salaam meeting ought to tackle.
The state of environmental hygiene in most of our cities, municipalities, towns and other urban centres is pathetic, at best. This makes many observers conclude that it is only by luck that communicable diseases such as cholera, dysentery, malaria and typhoid don’t strike us more often and viciously.
Even one on the most casual of tours around these urban centres will gather enough evidence that the relevant authorities and respective local residents have run out of ideas on how to ensure sustainable environmental cleanliness levels or simply do not care any more about the danger posed by the ever-mounting piles of garbage surrounding them.
And this is going on unabated despite annual budgetary allocations and the wide array of taxes and levies local residents are made to pay. It is also despite, rather ironically, frequent calls to the same residents to redouble their efforts to keep their immediate surroundings sparkling clean.
One wonders whether we have in place workable policies relating to the development and provision of water and sewerage services in accordance with the national water policy and implementation strategies and, if so, whether those policies are really being implemented.
We are told that access to sewerage services in our major urban centres stands at a dismal 17 per cent, with the coverage making it possible for only 25 per cent of the wastewater generated daily to be collected and safely disposed of.
Given a scenario as gloomy as this, who will find reason to believe that the Water ministry and other relevant authorities are really serious in having ‘Water is life and sanitation is dignity’ as their motto?