In his state of nation address in 2010 President Ian Khama promised the nation that a regulatory body will be established for water and power sector but five years down the line it is yet to be established. In 2012 the Botswana Energy and Water Regulator (BEWR) taskforce was set up to establish a regulatory framework for the energy and water sector but its findings are yet to published.
Lack of independent regulatory body has led to poor water quality and unfair tariffs to ordinary people, revealed United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to safe drinking water and sanitation Professor Leo Heller. He said that there is lot of incompliance in water treatment by Water Utilities Corporation which he said it is exacerbated by lack of independent regulator. Heller said that though Ministry of Health performs some drinking water quality surveillance, its role does not seem effective since there no systematic communication with the WUC. “The WUC is not obliged to report the results of the monitoring to the surveillance either,” observed the UN Special Rapporteur.
Professor Heller who was in the country investigating access to clean water and sanitation said that data provided by WUC on the compliance level of microbiological analysis of 8 out of 34 monitoring areas in the period of July to September water monitoring centres that he visited the water quality was below 50% of acceptable standard. In shocking revelations he said that in three monitoring areas, there was no proper monitoring data available.
“While WUC monitors the water quality of boreholes not connected to the network, the information of the individual boreholes is not reported or not easily available,” said Heller adding that people are never informed about the results. He cautioned that the right to information concerning access to water and sanitation is an important element of the human rights, and people have the right to be informed of the quality of water they are consuming.
On sanitation, he observed that since government transferred the services to WUC, the rate are much higher at P600 per each operation which many people cannot afford leading to overflowing pit latrines. He said the water and wastewater tariffs by WUC raises a lot of concerns from a human rights perspective in that enterprises and households are charged the same amount. “Enterprises who can afford to pay higher tariffs are subsidized by these relatively low tariffs. This means that individual households, who are connected, may in fact be subsidizing enterprises,” he revealed.
WUC have been struggling as it operated on losses leading to failure to pay their employees on time and Heller said that this is due to the tariff scheme as the utilities is failing to collect enough revenue to invest in operation and maintenance or to expand the connection networks to those who are not served. According to Heller, this has made WUC to be in deficit and heavily subsidized by the government.
He said that this raises concerns over the future capacity of the corporation to face the persisting challenges of the water and sanitation sector. He urged government to revisit the tariff system and new charges on public water points and put in place clear mechanisms to ensure affordable water and sanitation for all, including those who cannot pay the bills for the reasons beyond their control such as unemployment.
Another concern raised by Heller is the wastage of water due to leakage and inefficient management practices revealing that half of the water is wasted. He commended government and WUC with the help of international partners in implementing a strategy to reduce the water loss level to 22% by 2018 and to 15% eventually.