As Mbarara city and the surrounding districts continue to face difficulties getting access to water, National Water and Sewerage cooperation says the challenges is due to the destruction and degradation of River Rwizi.
River Rwizi is Uganda’s biggest river feeding Lake Victoria. It covers an area of about 8,200km2 and stretches across ten district Local Governments in South Western Uganda.
The river is the only source of water for Mbarara city, the largest urban center in Western Uganda. Its catchment comprises wetlands, forests, hills, open water, grassland, and shrubs and experiences two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. The rainfall here ranges from 690mm to 1,300 mm per year.
Their biggest challenge is the decreasing water levels at River Rwizi. Efforts to protect Rwizi from extinction have been minimal due to uncontrolled human activities, ranging from direct sand mining from the river, discharge of plastic waste into the river, encroachment on wetlands, and agricultural practices in the buffer zone.
The water degradation is not only affecting the water supply but has also increased the cost of treating water in Mbarara.
Jackie Sparks the Principal Quality Control Officer at NSWC in Mbarara said that only use of chemicals has increased from about Shs96m to Shs150m per month over the last two years due to deteriorating quality of water in River Rwizi,”
Ms. Sparkes also noted that the small industries that discharge their untreated waste in the river as well as people draining their fecal matter into the water source has contributed to the poor quality of water in the area.
The cost of treating water in Mbarara considering only the use of chemicals has increased from about Shs96m to Shs150m per month over the last two years due to the deteriorating quality of water in River Rwizi.
“Restoring the catchment areas of River Rwizi is still a big challenge, but can be achieved if communities in those areas, especially swamps are brought on board and form conservation teams. Jeconius Musingwire, the Western Uganda NEMA regional manager said.
“The local teams can oversee the cleanliness of the river and also ensure that people are responsible and keeping the river safe and free from rubbish, plastic bottles, and any other dangerous activities to the River”.
The National Water and Sewerage Corporation, National Environment Management Authority, and other private agencies like Abahumuza Development Group have continued to call upon Ankole Sub-region to stop degrading the environment to enable them to get clean water.
The Regional Manager for National Water and Sewerage Corporation Mr. Francis Kateeba while addressing journalists at NWSC offices in Mbarara City on 27th December 2021 said, “We have more than 30,000 meters and we entirely depend on River Rwizi as our major water source. For the last two weeks, we had water shortage in some parts of Mbarara which was basically caused by electricity supply,” Mr. Kateeba said.
As we call upon the Government and cry that “Government etuyambe” like today’s adage, it is important for everyone to know that it is not the Government that throws feaces, bottles, and untreated wastes in the rivers or even on the road. We all ought to be vigilant, responsible, and protect our motherland.
River Rwizi is just proof of how Ugandans continue to be irresponsible and expect the Government to correct mistakes all the time. The conservation of River Rwizi and all the other water bodies is possible if the different stakeholders including the citizens arise to the challenge.
Restoration and protection of the river Rwizi can happen but will require joint efforts of all stakeholders.