They were told that hope had finally come, and that in a few months their mourning would be turned into dancing. The women and girls clapped their hands with excitement, while the men sighed with relief for the burden would soon be lifted off their sisters’, wives’, and mothers’ shoulders.
Anxiously they waited till the final bang! The water project is complete; you can finally access water from just within your neighborhood. At the cock’s crow the next day, every homestead was alive with the cleaning and collection of water containers and off they rushed to the nearest tap stands with excitement to fetch the long awaited safe and clean water. Not surprising that the lines at almost every tap stand were averagely long.
But alas! After one, two, three, ten, twenty people had filled their containers, the taps went to “sleep”…..confident that it was a new project, the women and girls chose to wait for the taps to “wake up”... with no signs of water by evening, someone….some where needed to explain this short lived offer. As hours and days went by, it became clearer to them that the flow was to be at most irregular and at worst non available.
The women cursed and jeered while the girls and children never gave up on lining up at the tap stands for water each day hoping against hope that somehow things will work out. Perturbed by their women’s frustration, the men sought for an explanation from the leaders and CSOs, while others moved up to the source to establish the cause for the sudden change of events.
This move was the beginning of discovery after discovery about the water project; first, the community learnt that the water project was offered by Amaizi Marungi based in Mbarara, that the project cost approximately 35billion shillings, and is expected to have 436 connection points with a reserve tank at Bwera hospital. I n addition to this the scheme is expected to serve 35352 people. Unfortunately, this project just like other unsupervised public/government projects was at the verge of hitting a snag.
With continued pressure and plea from the community for water, KALI, RIC-NET, RWECO-CU and BIC undertook serious monitoring and follow up of this project; two field visits to the water source were conducted in November 2011 and January 2012. Several interviews were also conducted with the water user community, the leaders and even the water source attendants. And from these monitoring and follow up activities several findings/anomalies about the water project were established. These ranged from, illegal connections, non treatment of water due to non functional/utilization of water system treatment plant, non-payment of user fees by the community due to the inconsistence in the user fees charged at water Kiosks, use of small water pipes- accordingly, the original design of the water source pipe (in-let) was supposed to be 12 inches but the team found out that a 6 inch pipe size is what was used instead, lack of maintenance of the scheme i.e the two stone filtration tanks collecting to the main tank were blocked and filled with mud and as thus water could not easily go through to the rest of the tanks, poor monitoring of the scheme by the leaders and Scheme authorities to , non and or delayed payment of water source attendants for over two years, to mention but a few.
Aware that development and improved service delivery require joint efforts, KALI and BIC/RICNET with support from E-motive through RWECO organized a stakeholders’ dialogue meeting on 29.02.12 at Bwera Sub County to share the monitoring findings and also jointly identify lasting solutions to them. In attendance, this day, were Political and Civil servants, CSOs, and members of the community. Key among these leaders were the Deputy RDC Kasese Mr. Muhindo Aminadabu, Bwera Town Clerk, Mrs Biira Eve, the O.C Bwera Police Station Mr Mwesige Vicent and the Superintendent Bwera Hospital Dr. Gatare S. Alphonse among others. Approximately 100 people attended this stakeholder’s dialogue meeting.
On behalf of the Community, one Muhesi Nicholas of KALI presented the monitoring report findings that sparked off a hot dialogue between the community and her leaders.
Responding to the raised issues, the Town Clerk refuted most of the raised issues as only allegations. She explained that the water project is currently benefiting over 80000 people in the area and that the water is routinely treated and safe for consumption. She however cited the continued challenge of non-payment of user fees by the community and the different rates charged at water Kiosks by the private vendors.
Adding to this, the Superintendent, regretted to inform the participants on the impact/effects of the poor water that was being consumed by the community. He said the rampant and prevailing cholera in the area that had claimed many lives was largely due to consumption of dirty water and poor sanitation by the community-use of dirty water containers. Dr. Gatare also revealed that, the same water is responsible for the increased cases of intestine perforation which he said was a very bad disease that can only be treated by operating on the victim’s intestines.
The Superintendent revealed that Bwera Hospital in the recent past had registered many cases of intestine perforation. Intestine perforation, he said is common along the hilly areas and reportedly high in Busongora North, Bukonzo East and West Constituencies. He appealed to CSOs and Government to ensure that safe and clean water is extended to the community and that the community is intensively sensitized on proper sanitation practices.
Wrapping up the dialogue, several recommendations that included recalling the contractor to correct the raised anomalies, Police intervention to block illegal connections, institute organized and functional water user committees, strengthening monitoring and supervision of public projects by local leaders, and extending the hospital’s social services to the people were made.
Closing the meeting, the Deputy RDC thanked KALI, BIC/RIC-NET and E-motive for bringing out these issues to the leaders’ attention. He also expressed condolence to the families of those who lost their loved ones in the recent cholera outbreak in the constituency. He appealed to the community to learn to be more serious on issues of sanitation and timely treatment, saying this is the only way they can keep cholera and other diseases under check.
The RDC revealed that Government is still committed to the provision of safe and clean water to the community and as thus, they will work closely with Amaizi Marungi and Mpondwe –Lhubiriha Town Council to ensure that the raised complaints are addressed.
With all this said and done, I extend my gratitude to the people of Bwera for their vigilance and bravery in raising their voices about this project. I say bravo, your efforts have saved 35billion shillings public funds from going to waste.