Concerned about the increasing environmental problems of the Lake Victoria Basin, East African Ministers of Water commended UN-HABITAT on its leadership role in the design and implementation of the Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Initiative.
The Ministers, who were in Nairobi on September 5 for a meeting organised by UN-HABITAT to review the progress of the initiative, resolved to fully support the implementation of the current and next phases of the programme by committing their Governments to contribute the necessary counterpart funds.
They also agreed to address the urgent need for watershed management, overall water resources management, and urban pollution control, within the collaborative framework of the Lake Victoria Basin Commission.
The Ministers, Kenya’s Hon. Mrs. Charity Ngilu, Uganda’s Ms. Maria Mutagamba, Tanzania’s Prof. Mark Mwandosya, Burundi’s Dr. Samuel Ndayiragije, and Rwanda’s Mr. Stanislas Kamanzi, said this in a declaration which was witnessed by Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, the Executive Director UN-HABITAT and Dr. Tom Okurut, the Executive Secretary of the Lake Victoria Basin Commission.
In her address to the Ministers, Mrs. Tibaijuka said the initiative, which has received over US$20 million in funding support from the Government of Netherlands, had achieved a number of milestones since it was conceived in 2004. It began with two towns in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. These included Kisii and Homa Bay in Kenya, Masaka and Kyotera in Uganda, Bukoba and Mulema in Tanzania and the border town of Mutukula.
“To date, out of a target population in all the towns of 342,000, around 133,000 have benefited from improved water supply and some 20,000 from improved sanitation,” she said.
The Executive Director said the conservation of the Lake Victoria environment and sustainable utilisation of lake basin resources were a major concern for the UN, adding that besides rapid urbanisation in the region, irrigated agriculture was a key contributor to declining water levels in the lake.
In the declaration and follow up statements, the Ministers noted that considerable progress had been made in the implementation of the first phase of the Initiative and urged UN-HABITAT and the East African Community to immediately expedite the Project Formulation Study to expand the programme to an additional 15 towns.
They asked donors to provide an increased level of funding for the capacity building component of the initiative, through the UN-HABITAT Water and Sanitation Trust Fund, to ensure the long-term sustainability of the programme and also to enable UN-HABITAT to provide effective technical and management support for the new phase of the programme.
They also appealed to donors to support the East African Community, through the Lake Victoria Basin Commission, to provide staffing and an operational budget to coordinate the Project Formulation Study for the second phase and to establish strong links with governments, UN-HABITAT, the African Development Bank and other stakeholders during the expansion of the programme.
The Ministers requested the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank and other development banks to consider financing capital investments for water and sanitation infrastructure in the expanded programme through concessional loans and grants to national governments. They also called for more technical assistance to support UN-HABITAT through the Water and Sanitation Trust Fund to facilitate the training and capacity building component of the programme.
In conclusion, the Ministers agreed to meet within a year to assess progress made on the initiative.