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


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Art in Tanzania starts a dry toilets project with the help of volunteers

By David Kiarie
Dar es salaam (Originally Published on: Sep 26, 2013)

As the world marks the World Toilet Day today, November 19, many families in the world still do not have access to sanitation facilities.

According to UNICEF, 1.1 billion people around the world defecate in the open, contaminating their environments and water sources besides spreading diseases like diarrhea, which kills 2,000 children less than 5 years old every day.

In Tanzania, only 10 per cent of her people have access to improved sanitation. Over 40 million of citizens in the Eastern Africa country do not have to improved sanitation.

6.5 million people in the country defecate in the open according to Unicef, causing illnesses related to poor hygiene that could have been avoided, and which costs the government millions of money that could otherwise be used for development.

Besides this high cost of treatment, the country is robbed of many working hours as sick workers nurse their ailments in health facilities or at home.

The country is among 12 nations globally that are worst off on sanitation. It is also classified among the 11 countries worst off on access to improved water sources in the world with 21 million of her citizens lacking access to improved water supply. 53 per cent of the population has access to improved water supply.

Learning institutions have not been spared either with the national average number of students per latrine being 56.

598351_10151100231971930_978032409_n-300x19984 per cent of schools lack a functioning hand-washing facility while 38 per cent of the schools lack safe drinking water supply.

A survey by Unicef indicates that 99 per cent of the schools do not provide a bar soap for pupils to use for washing hands after visiting the toilet.

96 per cent of schools have no sanitary facilities suitable or accessible to children with disabilities.

It is estimated that a total of US $0.47 billion is required to fund provisions for water, sanitation and hygiene to approximately 18,000 schools.

WASH needs per school stands at US $25,000 which totals to US $3.2 million per district. The overall WASH needs is US $427.8 million.

Four children under five years die of diarrhea in Tanzania every hour and the government spends 70 per cent of the health budget to treat water related diseases.

The inaction cost for sanitation is estimated at US $200 million per annum, which is one per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The Tanzania Unicef chief WASH officer Omar Hattab while speaking to journalists during a media training on water, sanitation and hygiene in Dar es Salaam called for public sensitization on the subject saying this was a sure way of averting the many waterborne diseases that people contract due to poor sanitation.

A recent media tour to a local primary school at Vingunguti slums of Ilala district in Dar es Salaam revealed that pupils in the poor urban areas were hard hit.

At Mtakuja primary school, which has a population of over 3,500 pupils, only 47 latrines were available with girls using 27 of them. This means 74 pupils use one latrine.

The school head Godrick Rutayungururwa says the institution requires at least 100 latrines for boys and 121 for girls to ensure proper sanitation and reduce wasting of time by the pupils whenever they want to answer calls of nature.

Art In Tanzania, a non-governmental organization, has introduced a dry toilets project where modern sanitation facilities that require no water will be built in homes and institutions with unreliable or no water supply.

Proponents of this project say the facility is a better option to many people in the world with many countries still facing water shortage problems.

This will see users of the dry toilets avoid water bills and therefore use the money they would have spent on water to flash toilets put to other use.

The cost required for water bournbe sanitation is prohibitive in most parts of the world.

According to ECOSAN, a waterless toilet system website, 374559_10151100281686930_878916179_n-199x300the regular operating and maintenance costs of sanitation systems such as bucket latrines, septic tanks, chemical and waterbourne toilets are very high and could be avoided with the use of the dry toilet facilities.

Ecosan also says dry toilet system is affordable, completely closed, has no sewerage pipe network and does not require a sewage treatment plant.

‘It has conclusively been proven that nitrate loaded effluent from pit latrines is directly responsible for widespread contamination of valuable groundwater resources,’ the site says in part.

They further say there is no obnoxious odours and the toilets can be installed both indoors and outdoors.

One of the beneficiaries of the dry toilet project by Art In Tanzania, Shadrack Mkungu says the facility is better compared to pit latrines that most people use at his Mapinga village in Bagamoyo.

“This is a modern toilet and people are visiting me frequently to see the facility. They wish they had such a facility at their homes,” Mkungu says.

The father of four also says the facility is safe enough to be used by children since they cannot fall as it happens with pit latrines.

“I had not seen or used this kind of a toilet before and I recommend that this project be replicated in other part of the district and the country at large,” he says.

The toilet was constructed and installed by two Finish students Lotta partanen and Juha Ojala who are on internship at Art In Tanzania.

The environmental technology students say the dry toilet technology could help avert many water borne disease if replicated in many parts of Tanzania where water is scarce.

In order to achieve millennium development goals, the country requires an additional US $100 million to fund sanitation according to UNICEF