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The human face of water management

In Uganda the urban poor pay three times as much for water as do the rich, says Robert Apunyo, Ugandan winner of an International WaterCentre (IWC) Water Leader Scholarship.
The human face of water management

Robert Apunyo (image Christine Shephard)

Robert’s home town of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, has an abundance of freshwater resources, but most are polluted with industrial and municipal waste and pathogens.

Kampala is located on the shores of Lake Victoria and the city’s suburbs have many perennial springs that serve as sources of water to households, but access to potable water is limited as most of the water sources are polluted with industrial and municipal waste, sewage, pharmaceuticals, and disease-causing pathogens.

Lake Victoria is the source of the River Nile and the world’s second largest freshwater lake, however, its rapid death, due to “wanton pollution”, ranks it as the fourth emerging issue in the Great Lakes Region of Africa (World Economic Forum (WEF), 2008).  Wetlands degradation and unsustainable agricultural practices are also contributing to the reduction of water quality and quantity.

‘It is the poor who suffer most from these environment and water problems,’ Robert explains. ‘They can usually only get water from privately owned taps at exorbitant prices. And rural women, who are the sole providers of domestic water, often have to trek long distances carrying water on their heads. There is a high school dropout rate among the girl children largely because of this.’

Since he was a boy, Robert has been passionate about environment and water. He chaired Wildlife Clubs Uganda at high school and took on extra study in environment at university. Robert researched HIV/AIDS and other topics at Makerere University in Uganda and also volunteered in rural programs to help communities address environmental problems. And now this passion has brought Robert to Brisbane, Australia to study the IWC Master of Integrated Water Management.

‘One of the vital professional skills I am gaining from this masters training is the ability to put a human face in water management initiatives,’ Robert says. ‘Sustainability cannot be achieved without sound integration of human values and aspirations and indigenous knowledge in the management frameworks.’

‘I feel a social obligation to help the people of my home district,’ Robert says, and Ugandan communities will be the first beneficiaries of his new skills. Besides formal employment, he wants to scale up his involvement in community-based activities to promote integrated water resource management in his country, and thereby begin to turn around the inequalities and injustices of Uganda’s water situation.


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