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/

Lack of Clean Drinking Water in Tanzanian Schools

Introduction

School is important not only for it provides a place for children to study but also to inculcate values that benefit the rest of their lives. Nevertheless, In 2016, Schools in Tanzania, only 38% had an adequate number of latrines, 20% had water supply facilities, and less than 10% had functioning handwashing facilities. The Tanzania water source is unevenly distributed, lacks water purification technology, and the water supply is irregular and expensive in most areas; natural disasters are currently raging. 

Children in schools cannot access safe drinking water, which creates a negative influence on the regular school operation. High disease infection rates and little supplement of sanitized latrine are lowering student attendance, leading to the schools’ poor education. 

As a result, Water Purification Technology has to be improved to solve the water sanitation problem, and organizations, such as Art in Tanzania, are trying the best to get funding to help children get a better school environment.

Main Cause

There is not a single school in Tanzania that would have clean drinking water. Among the 36000 schools in the country, some even can’t supply water at all; they have no water, no sanitation, and no power. How does this happen? We will look into it through three leading causes.

Surprisingly, Tanzania holds many natural water resources. Yet, many citizens have minimal access to water. This is because those mighty water catchments in rivers and lakes are unevenly distributed around the country, and many arid areas are home to large populations. With no urban water pipelines, villagers in those areas need the stamina to take on a journey to get fresh water. Schools in those areas have no way to provide students with large amounts of clean water, which causes great difficulty for regular and resultful academic achievement.

Besides, the water supply in most areas is irregular and expensive; there does not exist a stable supply channel, or to be more specific, the convenient water supply is way too expensive for most people. People in those areas can only spend large amounts of money buying water if they are not capable of long-distance activity. So this also affects the stable operation for schools.

Despite the minimal amount of water supplies, little available water sanitation measurement is also a problem. The clean water supply in the whole country is exceedingly rare. The possible financial support and domestic technology can not provide a practical approach. The financial support for schools cannot support a reliable water sanitation system, and existing technology can not give answers using this amount of funding.

Results

The water supply and sanitation are affected by the above three causes and generate great difficulty for school operation. Lack of clean water supply affects not only students’ physical health but also the school attendance and regular academic progress. 

The current situation for students is that their health is severely affected by the lack of clean water. Students need to spend time to fetch water from distant places, and these workload stops students from focusing on their academic performance. They are the country’s future, and clean water should not be a first-place concern for them. More seriously, even they get natural water, unsanitized water still leads to a high infection rate of waterborne disease, such as Diarrhoea, Typhoid fever, and Escherichia Coli. These waterborne diseases are caused by the viruses and bacteria in unsanitized water. Students who drink unsanitized water or use those water to clean their hands are easily infected, with poor health conditions, they can not have a colorful school life. 

In addition to this, the lack of clean water leads to little latrines supply in the school. This will lower the attendance of girls since they have requirements for sanitary latrines during their menstruation. According to the NATIONAL GUIDELINE FOR WATER, SANITATION, AND HYGIENE FOR TANZANIA SCHOOLS, more than 70% of schools in Tanzania have fewer latrines than the national standard, “20 girls and 25 boys per drop hole”, and many of the existing ones have low sanitation and hygiene situation. The more students share one latrine, the lower the sanitization condition. Frequent absence from school leads to low academic performance and even a high drop rate, data shows that more than 50% of girls drop from primary school because of poor sanitation conditions. The schools require adequate water and sanitation resources to improve students’ attendance and produce better teaching results.

Future

In order to achieve clean water available in the school, currently, Bore Hole Drilling and Solar Water Purification Technology are the methods Tanzania is trying to use. Bore Hole Drilling is a good tool to secure water sources when the public water source is not available. However, the pilot does not have Bore Hole Drilling option. Comparing with Bore Hole Drilling, Solar Water Purification Technology has no such flaw. The schools can install more purification units to clean the water and reduce the number of waterborne diseases, and the cost of those units are more affordable for clean water. 


To help more children access with clean water, Art in Tanzania is continue working to help and assist children in the local community. With the continued effect of COVID19, the number of volunteers in Tanzania is decreasing, and we lack financial support for schools. If you would like to volunteer or make some donation, please do not hesitate to visit our website for more information: www.artintanzania.org

Sources:

https://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2018/04/02/tanzania-investing-in-water-and-sanitation-reaps-benefits-for-poverty-alleviation

https://www.jica.go.jp/english/news/focus_on/water/water_6.html

https://lifewater.org/blog/7-most-common-waterborne-diseases-and-how-to-prevent-them/