Decentralized water corporations improve services [Archives:2007/1107/Local News]

November 29 2007

By: Ismail Al-Ghabri
SANA'A, Nov. 27 ) Abdul-Rahman F.Al-Eryani, Minister of Water and the Environment (MWE), emphasized the importance of establishing independent local corporations for water supply and sanitation in urban areas and districts, to improve the services using modern and appropriate methods and ensure the access of services to all urban areas in Yemen.

He also emphasized that the corporations must have strong foundations and sound strategies to succeed, which will be facilitated by the establishment of a regulatory agency due to take place shortly. The Minister further stated that the participation of users and the local authority will ensure the success of any service or utility.

The minister praised the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and its role in supporting Yemen continuously in the water sector, among others.

The Urban Water Supply and Sanitation (UWSS) sub-sector reform in Yemen started in 1997. Since then, UWSS decentralization has resulted in an increase in service coverage to 95 percent of the urban population and improved the delivery of service tremendously. With these results, Yemen spearheads the process of sector reforms in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region in a short period of time.

Reforms started when Yemen suffered from low coverage, inadequate taxes, which were too low to cover operation and maintenance costs, and poor service standards provided by a centralized water supply and sanitation utility called National Water and Sanitation Authority (NWSA). In addition, the Yemen water sector was highly influenced by government subsidies and political interference. In 1996, a sector policy and strategy study recommended that the UWSS sector should be reformed and operated according to principles of decentralized management.

Due to awareness campaigns and consensus building among stakeholders in the sector and political leaders, the government of Yemen approved its UWSS reform agenda in the form of Minister Council Decree 37 in 1997. It embraces a policy of decentralization, corporatization, commercialization, public/private partnership and separation between service delivery and regulation. The decentralization aims to improve service delivery and enhance local authorities and community representation in the management of water utilities.

In 1996, a successful pilot case was launched in the Rada'a WSS utility, which led through further awareness campaigns to on ongoing process of decentralization in the UWSS. Consequently, the centralized arrangement of the NWSA was progressively replaced by a decentralized system of local water supply and sanitation corporations (LCs), LC branches and autonomous urban water supply and sanitation utilities.

The Ministry of Water and the Environment, in conjunction with the GTZ Yemeni/ German Technical Cooperation Water Program, prepared a workshop entitled “Consolidating Decentralization of Urban Water Supply and Sanitation””