Kigali residents decry cost of water harvesting tanks

Saturday April 16 2016

A household equipped with a rain water

A household equipped with a rain water harvesting tank in Rubavu. Only residents of Kigali district, Nyabihu and Rubavu have access to loans for water harvesting tanks. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By Johnson Kanamugire

Residents of Kigali suburbs have expressed concern over the high cost of rainwater harvesting tanks. The market is dominated by two manufacturers, namely RotoTank and Afritank.

Going by market prices, a household will need between Rwf410,000 and Rwf810,000 to buy the 5,000 and 10,000 litre water tanks. There is no provision for hire purchase.

However, residents of Kigali districts and those of Nyabihu and Rubavu benefit from the loan scheme that reduces the cost to between Rwf390,000 and Rwf775,000, payable in 12-monthly installments.

On the other hand, the building of underground water tanks is getting increasingly expensive mainly due to the lack of space required and the cost of pumps and electricity to pump the collected water.

Like the residents, manufacturers and retailers of the water tanks argue that unless there is government intervention to lower the production cost, the current high prices could become increasingly unaffordable to many who need the tanks.

This means low-income earners in high rainfall zones could continue to lose opportunities to harvest rainwater that is much needed in the dry season.

Last week, Celestin Munyandida a resident of Jali sector visited a neighbour in Gatsata shortly after a series of heavy rains had destroyed residential houses, leaving many others on the brink of collapse.

Here, water, which is usually scarce with a jerrican going for as much as Rwf350, came not as a blessing but a curse.

“Unlike in the rural areas, houses here are very connected, and not a single one harvests rainwater. So every time it rains heavily waters collects on the roofs and eventually some collapse and the houses flood, said Mr Munyandida.

Two people died in the area after the roof of their house caved in on them and 10 other people died under different conditions during the same rains, with 19 suffering injuries in other parts of country.

Blessed with average precipitation estimated at 1,400mm per year, translating into multi-million cubic metres of water every year, Rwanda could become one of the continent’s water rich nations.

However, it remains a water scarce country, having only a quarter of Africa’s average per capita water availability and storage volume.

Lack of appropriate rainwater harvesting has left all the rain falling in the country to go to waste as run-off, leaving many parts of the country exposed to water shortages and with rainwater-related hazards namely floods, soil erosion and others.

Available figures show that the country only uses less than two per cent of its available water resources, with the rest lost as run-off. This, according to experts, means a continuous wastage of the country’s resource at the expense of thousands in dire need of water for irrigation as well as domestic and industrial use.

The government however argues that this is a problem being worked on, citing recently-approved National Water Master plan as paving the way for computing and effective management of all the available water resources both on the surface and underground.

“We are finalising designs for multi-purpose dams that will capture waters to be used for irrigation and hydro power purposes. We have also introduced in the building code a requirement that all the houses be equipped with a rainwater harvesting facility,” said Dr Emmanuel Nkurunziza, Rwanda Natural Resources Authority head.

“The rest is enforcement which is to be done by Rwanda Housing Authority and districts,” he added.

Currently, only few building with big roofing area in town are equipped with rain water harvesting tanks while private houses and majority of residential houses in Kigali city are yet to install them.

The situation has remained unchanged even after the Ministry for Natural Resources put up a combination of incentives and a loan scheme to facilitate communities most hit by rains to get financial support in the use of rainwater harvesting systems.