Residents of Bukonzo County in Bundibugyo district are facing an acute water shortage three months after floods and landslides devastated the area.
Following a spate of ruinous floods that ravaged numerous areas in Bundibugyo in December last year, water supply was disrupted in some parts of the district, especially Bukonzo County.
Among those affected are members of the Abadhingiya Farmers Savings and Credit Cooperative Society Ltd who have raised an alarm over the water situation that has deprived several families of access to clean water.
Rev. Smith Tibamwenda, a member of the SACCO, said in a phone interview that the water situation in the area was worrying.
“For example, Greater Bubukwanga had its main water sources destroyed while the major gravity water flow for the sub Counties of Bukonzo, Kirumya, Bubukwanga and Ntotoro was washed away,” Rev. Tibamwenda said.
“This has left us with only a few, poorly maintained wells whose water is unsafe for consumption. Moreover, the wells are few and very far, making them difficult to access for many in the community,” he added.
Due to the acute water scarcity, residents of the affected areas say the price of water has shot up, with a 20 litre jerrycan now going for Shs 1,500, which is more than most can afford.
“Our only choice is between spending the Shs 1,500 per jerrycan of dirty water to be delivered by a bodaboda, or trekking 3-5kms per day to find water. Since the option of paying is too expensive for most of us, many people end up fetching the water themselves, which is very tiresome and time consuming,” says Juliet Ajuna, another Cooperator and affected resident.
Rev. Tibamwenda says that the water shortage has contributed to an increase in school dropouts since many children who should be in school now have to spend hours daily searching for water to take back home.
However, Richard Sajjabi, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Bundibugyo district, reacted angrily to the outcry raised by members of Abadhingiya Farmers’ SACCO, wondering why a group was “making noise” yet it was not the group, but individual families that had been affected by the water crisis.
“When you see a group complaining, then you know there’s something wrong. But if you want to know the plans for the district, then come on ground [sic] and we plan together,” Sajjabi charged.
But Ms. Ajuna insists that they are merely giving voice to an issue that affects the community as a whole.
“The floods did not affect us- the Cooperators- alone, but rather the entire community. For instance, the lack of clean water has affected mothers at Bubukwanga Health Centre III, where they deliver without water,” she said.
For his part, Bundibugyo district Chairperson, Ronald Mutegeki, told theCooperator that locally, they could not do much to restore water supply at the moment since, he said,” local governments depend on the central government for help”, but was optimistic that soon the issue would be resolved.
“Officials from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and engineers from Ministry of Water and Environment visited the area on a fact finding mission some time ago, meaning that the water problem facing the community will be sorted out very soon,” Mutegeki said.
He, however, admitted that apart from relief items that government distributed to his people shortly after the flooding happened, not much else had been done.
Mutegeki is especially concerned that relocation and resettlement of the at-risk population need to be urgently undertaken to avoid another disaster in the future.
“Despite continuously urging people to shift to safer places as the rains set in, our warnings have fallen on deaf ears,” the LC V boss said.
“We are likely to face an even worse situation this time round if the government’s weather projections come to pass as predicted, since those who had been affected last year returned to their former areas of residence after the camps closed,” he warned.
Among the most affected sub-counties include Bubukwanga, Kirumya and Ntotoro.