Mbarara – On Friday 11 July 2014, Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment made a commitment to work towards the provision of safe and adequate drinking water. The High Level Event, consisting of Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment, local organisations, international NGOs and donors, focused on the creation of an action plan to scale-up efforts to provide safe and clean drinking water across the country.
“Water is life, as it is commonly said, and provision of safe and adequate drinking water is a fundamental human right”, stated Dr. Callist, Commissioner for Water Resources Planning and Regulation, Ministry of Water and Environment. He stressed that if the government does not ensure safe drinking water, they are infringing on people’s human rights. In Uganda access to safe drinking water is lower compared to developed countries. Just 64% of rural inhabitants and 72% of urban inhabitants have safe and adequate access.
At the event, members of the Dutch WASH Alliance advocated for a catchment-based approach to water resources management (CB WRM) and highlighted the results of the two-year Rwambu Catchment Pilot Project.
The CB WRM approach offers a bird’s eye view to managing water resources in a catchment and identifies the links between upstream use and downstream impact. Some of the many objectives are to sustainably recharge water sources to increase access to clean water, reduce water-borne diseases and bring all beneficiaries in the catchment to the same table.
In Uganda’s Rwambu Catchment, extreme wetland degradation is yesterday’s story. The loss of fertile soil, surface water runoff, water pollution and water-borne diseases were commonplace before the application of nature-based solutions advocated by Joint Effort to Save the Environment (JESE), RAIN Foundation and Wetlands International. With the introduction of low-cost technologies, such as stone bunds and check dams placed uphill, the speed of surface water has been reduced, giving water the time it needs to infiltrate the soil and recharge the groundwater. As a result, moisture has been returned to the soil and crop yields have grown. The uphill interventions have also borne fruit downhill, recharging shallow wells.
The Rwambu Catchment project will serve as a successful case study for the Ministry of Water and Environment to scale-up this approach throughout the country.The organisations implementing the Rwambu Catchment Project were brought together under the umbrella of the Dutch WASH Alliance, with funding from the Netherlands Ministry of Trade and Development Cooperation and a grant from The International Fund for Agricultural Development.