Unsafe water threatens life of Kigali residents

Residents of Mwendo cell, in Kigali sector of Nyarugenge district are exposed to threats due to lack of safe water in the area.“I would choose dying of worms rather than thirst,” sighs an old man. But officials say they are working on the issue.

Mwendo residents fetching water from a local backwater (photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

Mwendo residents fetching water from a local backwater (photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

On a sunny evening, people in Mwendo struggle to fetch unsafe water from backwater just nearby Nyabarongo River. On the other side, cows graze around as they share the same water with local people.
Beatha, 60, of the residents says they have been forcibly depending on the unsafe water from the backwater called Kinamba for a long time, although it can cause a lot of threats to their lives.

“It’s sometimes stinking,” Beatha complains. “Children do their swimming there, cattle leave their manure and some people throw waste there.”

The old woman mentions that they also use water from Nyabarongo River which is nearby. The river’s water is also contaminated due to fact that some of the waste, industrial ones inclusive, from Kigali city have been channeled there for many years.

Beatha says they unenthusiastically fetch the water though they often see different kinds of waste thrown there going along the river.

“We sometimes see rotten things passing such as dead dogs and we let them go away, then we fetch water after,” explains Beatha, adding that they use it in drinking, cooking and washing.

Children fetching water at Kinamaba backwater (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

Children fetching water at Kinamaba backwater (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

Though experts in health warn to purify water by using some products or by boiling it, but it’s quite difficult to understand how such contaminated water would be purified by the local people. However, what’s worrying is that the people from the neighborhood do not even care about those probable means of purification.

“When the water stays in a jerrican for some hours, a quantity of it containing sand dumps down and we use the rest,” she explains, adding that they do not do any other attempt to purify it.

Nyabarongo river where some of the people fetch water (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

Nyabarongo river where some of the people fetch water (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

There might be no any other choice for some of the residents. They even drink the unsafe water knowingly that they are exposing their life to risks. “There is nothing else we can do,” sighs an old man who could not reveal his name. “I would choose dying of worms rather than thirst.”

Actually access to safe water in the area has been an issue of concern for many years. Though it’s still insufficient, officials in the area say there can be found two sites where safe water can be found, but local residents say they have to make a long distance to reach the public tap where they even have to spend several hours waiting for water. Local residents estimate that some can even make over 5 km to reach the public taps.

Aimable Munyaneza, the secretary executive of the sector says the situation in the area has now been worsened by the dry season, though he mentions that they even can share the little water instead of using the water likely to endanger their life.

According to the official, only 3500 households out of about 5000 can get easy access to safe water – estimation made with reference to 500m from home to the nearest tap.

In a bid to solve the issue, Munyaneza says they are jointly working with the Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) and Nyarugenge district to supply the area with clean water.

“We’ve a long term project to supply water in the sector and we’re already done with the first phase,” he explains, adding in the first phase they constructed a giant tank set up in Karama.

The second phase worth Frw 311 million, he mentions, to supply people living in Mwendo, Rwesero and a part of Ruliba cells is to be undertaken next. Another tank reservoir has also to be set up on Mont Kigali. However, lack of financial resources might hamper the plans given that it should be finished by the end of this year, yet funds still needed to be mobilized.

The official also mentions that they will gather all of the citizens in grouped settlement so that the exercise to supply water can be easier.

The Mwendo residents now suffer from the unsafe water while there has been shortage of water in a large part of the city. EWSA estimations indicate that clean water coverage reaches 70% countrywide while the target is to achieve 100% by 2020.

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