Published On: Tue, Mar 29th, 2016

Some farmers threatening the already water stressed Ruaha Basin

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By Orton Kiishweko
Some farmers in the Rufiji basin in Tanzania are increasingly stressing the Ruaha basin, an important area of 30 districts where 70 percent of the country’s hydro and a significant amount of the country’s food are produced.
The increasing rate at which the water basin is being stressed is due to lack of proper water-user infrastructure among the large and small scale agricultural investors in the basin , according to various water user authorities across the country.
‘The Ruaha basin is the most important to the economy of the country yet it is the most water stressed.Agriculture projects by both large and small scale farmers have failed to honor the law the stipulates putting in place water user infrastructure,”the Rufiji Water Basin Office (RBWO) Community Development Officer David Muginya,told IPS
As a result, the Ruaha basin, which is home to over 30 districts has 80 percent of the water used by agricultural projects lost in the ground.
According to a new University of Dar-es-Salaam, report titled ‘Vulnerability of People’s Livelihoods to Water Resources Availability in Semi Arid Areas of Tanzania’, water wastage by agricultural projects are making people depending on the water resources downstream of the Great Ruaha River catchment vulnerable.
“Their livelihoods are at risks as they don’t have water for irrigation and other eco-nomic activities. This calls for sustainable natural re-sources management upstream of the Great Ruaha Catchment,”it notes
As one ascends and rolls downhill, the scenic and the siren roads along steep valleys, you can not help reminiscent the cool and marvelling Alpine Europe, along the Rhine.
The Ruaha is an enormous undeveloped wilderness whose beautiful open landscape is especially rich in elephant, buffalo and lion.
The basin comprises four major rivers: The Great Ruaha, Kilombero, … Within the basin, water scarcity is acute in the Great Ruaha basin
More so, the undulating hills crestfully capped by lazily gliding fog and mist illuminate gorgeous valleys lavishly endowed with indigenous tropical rain forests-boosting a unique and rare diverse species of flora and fauna.
But as one encounters human settlement, though sparse, one appreciates the ability of a climate that is no doubt committed to sustaining humanity in a flourishing agricultural sector-both in bounty harvests of cereal and horticulture.
This is the pleasant story of the Ruaha River Basin, a catchment area that serves the great Ruaha River. Serving 3.2 million inhabitants, the Ruaha basin supply the national grid with over 60 percent of national electric power consumption.
The basin is therefore crucial to the national economy. Besides being one among the national grain baskets, the catchment zones drain into the Mtera, Kihanzi and Kidatu hydro-electric power generation dams.
But the picture and state of affairs of ecological sustainability in the Ruaha basin is not as rosy downstream as it appears in the hills of Kilolo District. Downstream, it is a sad story of a basin underfoing stress.
Yet, according to RBWO Community Development Officer David Muginya, the current water-user tariffs are low compared with the activities of the water basin office on water management among different investors in the area having water permits.
There are 30 districts, which is 20 per cent of the country. In an interview with ‘IPS’, he said the Water-users board is currently reviewing water-user rates. He said they sometimes face financial challenges in running the basin’s activities, a situation attributed to low water-use fees.
“That is why we are reviewing the wateruser rates,” he said. He said the water Ministry gave the directive to the water user board to see to it that the rates change. “Every water board is given the mandate to set their own water tariffs,” he said. He said the Water Ministry has already financed a study on tariffs and that would be the basis for the increment that starts in 2013.
“We have already done it in Rufiji and other basins have done it. So the reviewed rates start next year,” he said, adding that there is water inefficiency among agricultural investors, a situation he said would be turned around by better investment in water infrastructure across the farms.
“Agricultural investors are required by law to make sure they have proper wateruser infrastructure. We urge the same especially in the Great Ruaha which is highly water stressed,” he said. The Rufiji Water users Office monitors water uses including the operations of the Mtera and Kidatu dams and the Water Resources (availability and quality).
It also issue water Rights and consents to discharge waste water. Since its establishment the office has been engaged among other activities, in the monitoring of water abstractions and uses mainly in the Great Ruaha Sub- Catchment and collection of data from water resources monitoring stations in the whole Rufiji River Basin. Collection of operational data from Mtera and Kidatu dams has been done by this office.
The data includes dam water levels, turbine discharges and spills if any. A number of Water Rights have been issued during this period. The Rufiji Basin comprises of four major rivers—the Great Ruaha River, the Kilombero River, the Luwegu River and the Rufiji (lower part of Main River).
 Yet, even as the basin is water stressed, its water tarrifs for investors are still low.
Muginya says the current water-user tariffs are low compared with the activities of the water basin office on water management among different investors in the area having water permits.
There are 30 districts, which is 20 per cent of the country. In an interview with ‘Daily News’, he said the Water-users board is currently reviewing water-user rates. He said they sometimes face financial challenges in running the basin’s activities, a situation attributed to low water-use fees.
“That is why we are reviewing the wateruser rates,” he said. He said the water Ministry gave the directive to the water user board to see to it that the rates change. “Every water board is given the mandate to set their own water tariffs,” he said. He said the Water Ministry has already financed a study on tariffs and that would be the basis for the increment that starts in 2013.
“We have already done it in Rufiji and other basins have done it. So the reviewed rates start next year,” he said, adding that there is water inefficiency among agricultural investors, a situation he said would be turned around by better investment in water infrastructure across the farms.
“Agricultural investors are required by law to make sure they have proper wateruser infrastructure. We urge the same especially in the Great Ruaha which is highly water stressed,” he said. The Rufiji Water users Office monitors water uses including the operations of the Mtera and Kidatu dams and the Water Resources (availability and quality).
It also issue water Rights and consents to discharge waste water. Since its establishment the office has been engaged among other activities, in the monitoring of water abstractions and uses mainly in the Great Ruaha Sub- Catchment and collection of data from water resources monitoring stations in the whole Rufiji River Basin. Collection of operational data from Mtera and Kidatu dams has been done by this office.
The data includes dam water levels, turbine discharges and spills if any. A number of Water Rights have been issued during this period. The Rufiji Basin comprises of four major rivers—the Great Ruaha River, the Kilombero River, the Luwegu River and the Rufiji (lower part of Main River).
Muginya, for example, says half of the basin is where large scale agricultural projects for rice and sugar are located.
“This is a strategic basin to the country’s economy.It also houses the country’s three dams of Kihansi,Kidatu and Mtera which produce 70 percent of the country’s electricity.If there are no lined up canals,there is wastage of water,we told them to have proper water user canal.Before they implement any water related project,they should first consult us.The livelihood of the people depends on irrigation.Its the area with prone conflicts of water.We are asking investors to have water user infrastructure,”he said
It is because of the worrying state of affairs in the basin, that the World Wild Fund-UK (WWF) began mooted and funds an environmental conservation project to save the Ruaha basin and its water catchment areas already under assault by human activity.
The Programme Coordinator WWF – Ruaha Water Programme, Petro Masolwa says since its inception, in 2005, the 5-year project has recorded remarkable succession against a myriad of bottlenecks.
WWF are implementing the project in collaboration with the ministry of water and the community at various levels.
“For the project to succeed we had to education the community to realise the danger in unsustainable use of water and destruction of the catchment areas and that is the sure reason behind the success of the project because it is now owned by the community, not the government or WWF,”said Masolwa.
The project has saved various water catchment areas that were already under threat of extinction in the Kilolo and Iringa Rural districts.
At the district level the coordinator said the Capacity Integrated Water Management team is multidisplinary, bringing on board all the stakeholders.
“Our desire and hope is that by the end of our programme, there will be effective management of the water resources at the district levels and this should be in line with national water management policy, said Masolwa.
At the same time Masolwa was hopeful that the work and survey conducted in the course of the project implementation would establish the actual cause of the alarming drop in the water levels and the flow of water in the entire River Ruaha system.
The project also targets to create the requisite awareness among the local community and the local governments on crucial environmental concerns that are pertinent.
But as the project progresses it is important to consider the strategy importance of the Ruaha River Basin, not only to the local community, but to the entire nation.
The basin controls the pulse rate of the nation’s economy as an agriculturally productive zone whose agrarian potential is yet to be exploited fully.

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