Limited resources prevent NWSSIP from attaining targets [Archives:2006/964/Health]

July 17 2006
Fifty-eight percent of urban residents have water coverage, whereas only 38 percent of those in rural areas have water coverage.
Fifty-eight percent of urban residents have water coverage, whereas only 38 percent of those in rural areas have water coverage.
By: Amel Al-Ariqi
[email protected]

A national report has revealed that limited financial sources stand in the way of achieving the goals of the National Water Sector Strategy and Investment Program, NWSSIP (2005-2009).

The NWSSIP is a consolidated strategy, action plan and investment program for the water sector, which faces complex development problems, its most serious challenge being scarcity of water resources and over-exploitation of aquifers.

To tackle these problems, the Ministry of Water and Environment, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, has formed four sub-sectors: urban water and sanitation, rural water and sanitation (RWS), irrigation and water resources, with a total membership of more than 100 professionals, parliamentarians, donors and civil society representatives.

Work groups drafted the proposed strategy and investment program in 2004 to be discussed with a broad base of governmental representatives and donors.

The NWSSIP proposes a set of institutional and financial measures aimed at addressing the four sub-sectors in an attempt to work out solutions to Yemen's water crisis and protect stakeholders' interests in such resources.

In order to evaluate and measure implementation and results alongside NWSSIP targets, the Ministry of Water and Environment established a Monitoring and Evolution Unit in 2005, which produced its first review last month.

Prepared by a review team related to all of the sub-sectors, the first joint annual review 2005-2006 described the water sector's overall performance as “moderately satisfactory,” while insisting that the budget performance was “unsatisfactory.”

The total five-year NWSSIP investment program is $153.8 million – 27.9 percent financed by the Yemeni government, 35.8 percent from donors and 36.3 percent as yet unfinanced. Therefore, to achieve NWSSIP objectives, the water sectors require an estimated $307.6 million annual disbursement for each of the five years. Total disbursement was only $102 million in 2005, leaving an estimated funding gap of $205.6 million.

Urban water and sanitation

According to the NWSSIP, the annual investment target for urban water and sanitation was $134.5 million, but only $65.1 million was approved – 50 percent of the requested amount.

Constant urban population growth is another obstacle facing the NWSSIP regarding urban water supply and sanitation. At the end of 2004, the urban population was estimated at 5.59 million, increasing to 5.86 million by the end of 2005.

Achieved water supply coverage at the end of 2005 was 58 percent, or 457,000 home connections, reaching a population of 3.43 million (up 11 percent from the 2002 baseline); whereas achieved sewage network coverage at the end of 2005 was 32 percent, or 250,000 homes, reaching a population of 1,875 million (up 7 percent from the 2002 baseline).

“There has been an increase in population coverage; however, it does not yet surpass urban population growth. Thus, in some cases, coverage actually has decreased, as the average individual share is only 62 cubic liters daily,” the review mentioned, “So far, increased service coverage does not succeed urban population growth and therefore, does not close the gap.”

The review pointed out that coastal towns are well served; however, there are critical towns such as Taiz, Sana'a, Sa'ada and Amran where rural-urban water transfer must be organized on short notice.

Rural water and sanitation

Regarding RWS budget performance, the review revealed that the 2005-2006 outcome was unsatisfactory, as total disbursement was only $29.5 million, well below NWSSIP's $96 million annual target.

However, the review revealed that results were positive, as 252 projects have been designed, with the beneficiaries of such projects including more than 710,080 citizens. The review confirmed that coverage increased overall to 37.5 percent, which includes 5.5 million beneficiaries.

The RWS sector plans to complete 507 water supply schemes in 2006 serving 981,901 rural residents at a total cost of $44 million.

The review exposed that sanitation coverage data for rural areas is hardly available. “Therefore, it's risky to assert the progress of coverage for this area. In the coming years, the sector needs to pay considerable attention to sanitation and hygiene promotion in its plans,” the review mentioned.

The review referred to numerous constraints and difficulties the sector faces, such as:

– Scarcity and depletion of water resources

– Diversification of organizations working in the sector, leading to a loss of available funds

– Poor awareness of beneficiaries in some rural areas where water schemes are executed

– Attempts by some key figures to use rural water schemes for their personal interests, particularly in remote areas.

The review called for the Yemeni Cabinet's immediate endorsement of sector policies and strategies, as well as urgent implementation of detailed and comprehensive field inventory for rural water schemes involving both water and sanitation.

Irrigation and watershed

The review confirmed that no funds were provided to the sector in 2005 to design and implement irrigation as part of the NWSSIP monitoring system. Capacity building and institutional strengthening of the irrigation department in the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation was taken up on a skeleton basis, involving such implementations as a Ground and Soil Conservation Project and a Sana'a Basin Water Management project. Such support hasn't been effective, as the sector needs direct support.

The review said delayed restructuring of the ministry's irrigation sector and its capacity building scheme is responsible for the construction of large numbers of dams without proper investigation, design or quality control. In this regard, it highlighted weaknesses in the irrigation infrastructure's occupational maintenance systems and the abandonment of terraces and water harvesting structures.

On the other hand, the review pointed to the fact that agriculture consumes 90 percent of available water, but irrigation efficiencies are very low (35 percent under spate irrigation and 40-45 percent under groundwater irrigation). The review also noted an 11-fold increase in ground irrigation, from 37,000 hectares annually in 1970 to 407,000 hectares in 2004. Additionally, the review recorded a nearly one-third reduction in rain-fed irrigated areas, from 1.2 million hectares to 460,000 hectares during the same period.

The review also evaluated budget performance through quantitative results and outcomes of this sector was satisfactory.

Water resources management

The review considered that the sector's overall performance during 2005 was unsatisfactory, as the National Water Resources Authority (NWRA), which is responsible for the sector, seems to express limited clarity concerning developing and implementing the water basins plan.

Additionally, there was slow progress in preparing water resource management plans and controlling groundwater depletion (the only plan implemented is in Taiz). Furthermore, the review noted that amendments to the water law have been awaiting parliamentary ratification since 2004.

Budget performance also was unsatisfactory, as the sector's total disbursement was only $1.1 million, whereas the NWSSIP target was $9.4 million annually.

The review confirmed that over-exploiting groundwater has become a critical issue since the 1980s, resulting in annually declining groundwater levels in most critical basins. Natural groundwater flow patterns have seriously changed, replaced by water flow in random directions as a result of local pumping. Many hand-dug wells have become dry due to declining water levels.

In this regard, the NWRA has implemented national monitoring to control and predict possible changes in groundwater level and quality. By the end of 2005, there were 547 monitoring points, including 304 to monitor groundwater, 34 to observe surface water and 26 meteorological stations. To date, the NWRA has inventoried approximately 55,000 wells – 21,000 in 2005 alone.

Findings and recommendations on cross-cutting issues

The Donor Core Group (DCG) representing the NWSSIP provides necessary donor-donor coordination, supporting signatories for creating a united vision and facilitates communication and coordination. A second type of necessary coordination relates to internal government coordination, highlighting that the water issue can't be approached in isolation as a stand-alone sector due to the many interrelations between water and other economic, social and legal considerations. The need for inter-ministerial coordination is evident.