Water, water just about all around us, but to what use?

02Aug 2019
Editor
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Water, water just about all around us, but to what use?

AT the best of times, even while generally blessed with an abundant supply of fresh water and allied marine resources, Tanzania puts to useful purpose only a fraction – amid numerous cases of overexploitation or other misuse.

In fact, even in the event of getting generous rains and generally clement weather, it often helplessly looks on as water drains into an ocean that doesn’t really need such feeding while massive tracts of rich cropland are swept away by floods only to get unbearably dry when adverse weather sets in.

In part following recommendations informed by findings of expert studies, the government has long contemplated constructing dams and other forms of reservoirs into which rainwater would be diverted for later profitable harvesting. That way, the water would not go into filling rivers that in turn pour into the sea or hydroelectricity supply dams whose floodgates have to be conveniently opened as and when deemed appropriate or necessary.

Splendid, only that we are yet to see any dam specially built for the purpose of arresting and con serving rainwater that would otherwise have gone to waste or even resulted in disaster.

It can scarcely be said for sure what the government, or more specifically the Water ministry, is planning to do at least to show that it means business about implementing initiatives such as Kilimo Kwanza whose fate will hang in the balance until sustainable supply of water is guaranteed.

Without doubt, it would be absolutely wrong to slight the headway made – against massive odds – in tapping Lake Victoria waters for use in places such as semi-arid Shinyanga Region.

All the same, had appropriate measures been taken much earlier, we would be talking of truly large-scale irrigation working agricultural and other miracles just as is the case in Brazil, China, Egypt, India, etc.

These countries demonstrate varying degrees of dependence on rainwater for use in providing drinking water, water for livestock, water for agriculture, and so on. The water harvesting systems in use range from simple ones relying on inexpensive locally available materials to sophisticated industrial ones employed in feeding underground dams.

But even without thinking very big by planning to construct huge surface dams where rainwater could end, we could still do an immense lot in ensuring that not too much of such water is lost or wasted.

There is what is commonly known as rainwater harvesting which, strictly speaking, refers to the technology used for collecting, storing and (maybe) treating rainwater from rooftops, the land surface or rock catchments.

Documentary evidence shows that the techniques usually found in Asia and Africa arise from practices employed by ancient civilisations within those particular regions and still serve as a major source of drinking water supply in rural areas.

These could be improved – and some improvisation would not have to consider copyright laws – to ensure stepped-up efficiency without necessarily proving needlessly expensive. Resources allowing, plans about building dams for large-scale irrigation could then follow.

Tanzanians have abundant experience with serious social, economic, environmental and other problems associated with scarcity of quality freshwater vis-à-vis escalating demand. While the development of new surface dams will likely attract ferocious opposition from environmentalists, demand for clean and safe water could by far overshadow most other considerations.

As a nation, we need to devise and implement ways of doing more to meaningfully exploit rainwater relative to alternative means of ensuring enough supply of water for our various needs. In this, there is no option to moving as fast as we can in making prudent decisions and implementing them accordingly.

 

Reforms in conduct of doing business should be encouraged – and sustained

 

AN evaluation meeting of the Tanzania Business Council has expressed satisfaction with the pace and breadth of reforms in the conduct of doing business as currently implemented in the country.

A keynote presentation highlighted the redefinition of functions of the control of standards in general and that of medical and medical devices specifically, thus shifting foods and cosmetics to the Tanzania Bureau of Standards.

Participants expressed delight in enhancement of efficiency in pursuit of licences or permits, while the government has also noticed enhanced compliance, etc.

The wider parameter of the reforms has been set out in what is officiously being described as the Blueprint, a codeword for recommendations and approved methods and actions to be taken to make life easier for investors and business persons in general.

The document was adopted last year and has gradually been making its way in the higher levels of policy administration to become more or less a common reference point, instead of touching disparately either on the way the physical environment is managed, or taxation  is conducted, etc.

The blueprint exudes an air of complementary character of the various measures it envisages, thus get predictable outcomes.

Ordinarily, when there is little explicit divergence between the private sector or the business community and the thrust of government action, at least in relation to day to day issues that affect the conduct of business rather than the main axes of policy, all is likely to be well.

When it comes to the pillars of economic policy, major economic actors tend to adapt to the situation, but they will find it difficult to adapt to disturbances of a day to day basis in the manner in which economic policy is implemented or business conduct is regulated. That is, thus, the mainstay of the Blueprint – to ensure that investors and business generally are comfortable.

Although there is no formula on how the private sector evaluates policy or regulation as a whole, with its precepts or current prerogatives affecting those concerned differently, the critical dimension is how far regulatory action facilitates competition.

That is where public sector sentiments and the business community quite often diverge, as the former wishes for padded enclosures for its regulatory and even active economic entities, which means that they dictate the terms in which they operate, instead of being subjected to the same constraints as others.

It is this sort of attitude shift that is now being assiduously cultivated among regulatory agencies and the public sector generally.

Adjustments in the way we conduct our various activities, whether in the public service or in the private or informal sector, are only to be expected and we all ought to take them in our stride. Positive or otherwise, they will often provide important lessons, which would likely inform the way we move ahead.

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