Thirty-year old Rehema Juma of Kilimani Road in Nachingwea town used to get piped water from Mkumba source, about five kilometres away - quite smoothly.
Now, like many residents of the town, the precious liquid is not obtained easily largely due to a dilapidated and aged water system which was established during the colonial era in the 1950s.
Against this background, therefore, the government has launched a major water development initiative for Mtwara and Lindi regions respectively aimed at stamping out the chronic water shortages, notably experienced in Nachingwea and Masasi towns for years. The objective is to improve the welfare of the peole by enganging in income generation activities.
The 31bn/- project, known as Masasi and Nachingwea Water Works, has been described by the people here as one of the biggest single water scheme to be launched by the government in the two regions in post independence.
The first similar project was launched and implemented jointly by the government and Finland in the 1970s, but later proved futile as the majority of the hand or shallow wells dried up due to persistent droughts.
Also known as Mbwinji Spring Water Project, its actual implementation started in February 2011 and is schedulled for completion in August this year, according to a contract signed between the two governments and a Chinese construction company, Sinohydro Corporation Ltd of Beijing. Estimates reveal that the project is envisaged to produce between 13-17 million litres of spring water per day. Current demand is put at 6..7 million litres per day for Masasi town and 2.5 million litres per day for Nachingwea town.
Mtwara Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (MTUWASA) has been appointed by the government as the main supervisor of the project. The authority fears that the scheme may not be completed in time due to delays in advance payments from the Treasury to the contractor.
The contractor has requested an extension period of three months up to August 2012 as only 60 percent of works have been executed so far including vital supplies.
MTUWASA managing director Eng. Abdallah Matauna has confirmed this in an interview. “The delay in project financing is likely to cost the governement 441m/ to be paid to the contractor as interest charges,” he says.
Other important works done so far include laying of 36 km out of 37 km gravity main pipe from Mbwinji source at Nangoo village in Masasi district to Chiumbati village just a few kilometers from Nachingwea town, bringing the the workload done to about 97 percent on the Nachingwea side with the remaining lot scheduled for completion sometime in August.
Synohydro also has finished the laying of crucial distribution pipelines in Nachingwea town reaching a target of 99 percent of pipe laying work alone – with a total distance of 80km.
Othe major works under way on the Nachingwea section of the Mbwinji project include construction of 6-million litre storage tank at the intake as well as staff houses and an engineer's office at Chiumbati village.
It is estimated that upon completion of the project, more than 20 villages built distribution network will benefit from drinking clean and safe water.
Masasi villages which will benefit from the project include Mailisita, Nangoo, Chikundi, Chigugu, Chikukwe, Mtandi and Masasi town proper. And those at Nachingwea side are Chinongwe, Likwachu, Chiumbati, Songambele station and Nachingwea town proper.
In addition, old and existing water schemes in the two Regions are currently being rehabilitated under a fresh development initiative known as “Immediate Works Programme” for Mtwara Municipality, Masasi and Nachingwea Township using Jandu Plumbers Construction Company of Arusha.
Water experts at MTUWASA maintain that the Immediate Works Programme is seriously targeting on replacement of old pumps at existing wells, rehabilitation of storage tanks as well as enhancing sanitation services, both in Masasi and Nachingwea Districts.
Health pundits here believe that provision of sanitation and education is a rational strategy for controlling the rapid spread of contageous diseases such as Cholera, Typhoid and dysentry.
Meanwhile MTUWASA says that it is facing liquidity problems in servicing various projects within its domain because of huge accumulation of unpaid water bills. For instance statistics show that during 2009/2010, the Authority collected a total of 1,094bn/- but this amount slumped to only 1,086bn/- in 2010/2011 hence causing budgetary constraints, as institutions as well as other customers owed MTUWASA a total of Tshs. 272.8m/- in unpaid arrears.
This amount plus the falling revenue collection in the past two years has severely diminished the capacity to provide improved water supply in the Municipality.
On Enviromental destruction in water sources MTUWASA is working jointly with Ruvuma Basin Authorities in formulationg workable strategies aimed at conserving the natural environment.
According to Ruvuma Basin Public relations officer Mr. Dickson Magongo, plans are underway to plant 4,000 teak trees at Mtawanya water source alone this year of which 2,000 have been planted as part of “Maji Week” festivities which ended on March, 22.
Mtwawanye source has the capacity to prduce 12,000,000 litres a day under normal conditions including improvement of the aged treatment plant situated at Mangamba pumping station.
According to official estimates the production of 12,000,000 litres a day can undoubtedly satisfay the current population of 114,725 in the Municipality. Current production from the source is 7.5 million litres per day which is 63 percent of water demand.