The Challenges of Water Sustainability in Zanzibar

Romaisa Hussain – Art in Tanzania Internship

In today’s world, there has been intense struggle for water resources. This is due to rising population currently standing at 7 billion, their usage of water and extreme competition over water resources, water dependent crops and urbanization. Therefore, it is no surprise that the world is running out of fresh water every day. The need for water will continue to rise unless there are steps to conserve and recycle this crucial element. As of 2020, about 1.5 billion people are dealing with water scarcity due to climate change, drought, increasing population, poor management of water and increasing agricultural output under multiple stressors. This figure is said to increase to around 3 billion by 2025. Currently, the increasing population shows huge demand and competition over water resources in terms of household, commercial, and district uses which has been a massive contributing factor towards water scarcity.

As an outsider, Zanzibar looks like a wonderous cluster of coral islands off the east African coast. The island has white sandy beaches alongside the ocean blue water and a total of about 1.7 million population that survive on a mere £10 a week. This fast-growing population is faced by water shortage especially in areas like the Michamvi village and other small towns. Despite making multiple efforts to address the water issue, the Zanzibar islands heavily depend on the groundwater for domestic and commercial uses of water for their agriculture. The climate change and rising sea level largely affect the quality and quantity of water on the island which reflects the sensitivity of Zanzibar to such variability.

The Impact of Water Crisis in Zanzibar

The coastal island of Zanzibar off the mainland of Tanzania is faced with many challenges such as the high demands for agriculture, poverty, poor technological infrastructure, and availability of water resources particularly in the rural areas where clean and hygienic consumption of water remains difficult to achieve. This water scarcity largely affects women and children who end up walking for miles to obtain the vital source which is quite time consuming as it deprives the children of their education.

Zanzibar, like many other developing areas has obtained international aid for the establishment of wells, power cables, manufacturing desalinization systems, infrastructure and constructing sanitation systems in order to prove beneficial for the island. Unfortunately, despite huge foreign aid investments, the island failed to sustain these systems due to lack of education, resources and training resulting in only short-term benefits. To address this issue, an organization called Zanzibar Water Authority (ZAWA) was established which initiated Urban Water Supply and Sanitation project aimed towards enhancing the water supply mechanism and reconstructing the financial control of the distribution of water. ZAWA installed pay-stations for the citizens to pay off their water bills, but such system asked for a cultural change. If such change is adapted by locals, the future of this system seems fruitful but all-round accessibility to hygienic and safe consumption of water still remains a challenge in Zanzibar.

Addressing the Water Quality Issue

Access to clean and safe drinking water remains a huge challenge in Zanzibar as it is one of the driest areas around the world.  Because of the rise in sea levels, the underground water is growing saline and getting polluted due to increase in germs and wastewater. For this purpose, three German organizations joined together in 2015 to provide access to clean drinking water to public on the island.  These companies are supported by GIZ (the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) working on the behalf of the government of Germany. Due to their efforts, about 2000 locals in the areas of Kijito Upele and Michamvi have gained access to affordable and hygienic consumption of water. Moreover, this new system also enabled the local services to keep a constant check on the quality of water within Zanzibar.

Challenges of Water Security and Climate Change in the Coastal Communities of Zanzibar

Similar to other small islands in the region, utilization and proper use of water sources are fundamental towards the elimination of poverty and food shortage in Zanzibar. Water management is also important in order to execute the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 set by United Nations especially the First SDG of “No Poverty”, Second on “Zero Hunger”, and sixth on “Clean Water and Sanitation for all”. This is due to the fact that this vital resource may reduce food shortage in local areas, decrease poverty, and enhance agricultural output. Even though Zanzibar has made multiple attempts in upgrading the water supply particularly in the domestic level in the past 10 years, in some villages around the coast, the availability and accessibility to water sources remain out of reach. Therefore, addressing the water security issue is important for the welfare and survival of human beings. Furthermore, people living in these areas rely on well and water from caves which are vulnerable to contamination and climate change.

The factors that depend on climate and local sources of wells and caves include household needs, livestock keeping, and crop farming as it largely depends on rainfall. It is also understood that water supply is not consistent but instant variable around these islands which allow the locals to experience water insecurity both in domestic and commercial level. Ultimately, those with less access to local water sources are more prone to water insecurity. Apart from arduous access to water supply, the communities also face other challenges including poverty and hydrogeology which contribute to water insecurity. Despite making efforts to improve water quality and quantity in Zanzibar, there is also potential for collecting rainwater to address the water issues. This harvest would not only improve water security in domestic level but also support the communities that are prone to climate change and depend on local sources in Zanzibar.

Access to Clean Drinking Water by Rotarians Despite Pandemic

The Zanzibar Island is said to have rich and freshwater aquifers which constantly face challenges including environmental sustainability, lack of water management and tourism. Even though Zanzibar experiences a huge number of tourists entering these islands, only 2.5% of the total population i.e. 30,000 of the people are employed. These tourists take up ten times more water usage than the local residents and few of the hotels dispose of their sewage into the sea which forms a thin line of soil over the coral areas. 

The tiny settlements on the island acquire water through wells which are getting more and more polluted due to tourists, rise in population, and insufficient sewage treatment. Zanzibar Rotary in partnership with the Rotary club of Oadby Launde, a project formed in Leicester, United Kingdom, financed £1,000 and raised further £500  for the project Kiss Solar Energy to provide clean and safe drinking water in Mpadeni village. Despite the delay in project due to COVID-19, a sample was taken from the well dug about 20 meters deep in the Mpadeni village in October 2020. After being tested by ZAWA, it was passed as good quality of water.

By Romaisa Hussain

Sources

Ayoub, S. Y. (2019). The Impact of Population Growth on Water Resources Availability in Western District, Zanzibar. Retrieved from University of Tanzania: http://repository.out.ac.tz/2541/1/DISSERTATION%20-%20SALMA%20YAHYA%20AYOUB%20-%20FINAL.pdf

Boston University. (2016, February 28). Water Sustainability in Zanzibar. Retrieved from Global Health Technologies BU: https://www.bu.edu/globalhealthtechnologies/2016/02/28/water-sustainability-in-zanzibar/

GIZ Tanzania. (2017, March 20). Clean drinking water for Zanzibar. Retrieved from GIZ in Tanzania: https://www.giz.de/en/mediacenter/44092.html

Kayuni, A. (2018, January 24). Tanzania: Measures in Place to End Isles’ Water Problems. Retrieved from All Africa: https://allafrica.com/stories/201801240728.html

Makame Omar Makame, R. Y. (2018, May 18). Water Security and Local People Sensitivity to Climate Variability and Change Among Coastal Communities in Zanzibar. Journal of Sustainable Development, 11(3). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.5539/jsd.v11n3p23

Niblett, J. (2021, May 4). Rotarians overcome pandemic problems to provide clean water to Zanzibar village. Retrieved from Rotary Great Britain and Ireland : https://www.rotarygbi.org/rotarians-overcome-pandemic-problems-to-provide-clean-water-to-zanzibar-village/

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