Photo: Tony Young under a Creative Commons license.
Lake Victoria is vital to the livelihood of about 30 million people in East Africa. But as the region urbanizes, pollution levels in the lake have increased and access to clean water for disadvantaged populations is far from a sure thing. So the governments of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, with the help of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) have stepped in with an ambitious initiative to protect local ecosystems and to provide clean water and sanitary living conditions for inhabitants.
Photo: Stefan Magdalinski under a Creative Commons license.
The Lake Victoria Region Water and Sanitation Initiative (LVWATSAN), started in 2004, aims to meet the Millennial Development Goals for water, established by the United Nations in 2000.
Last week, UN-HABITAT announced that the second phase of the project will begin in August. With a $110 million grant from the African Development Bank, UN-HABITAT and the national governments are set to target 15 urban settlements in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, where the poverty rate is as high as 50%.
The goal is to improve the living conditions of the 1 million people living in these settlements, while at the same time preserving Lake Victoria's ecosystem. These goals go hand in hand: protecting the environment is key to battling poverty. Within those overarching objectives are seven specific goals:
- Expedite pro-poor water and sanitation investments in secondary towns
- Enhance institutional and human resource capacities at local and regional levels
- Operationalise sector reforms
- Enhance capacities of local private sector entities in service delivery
- Reduce the adverse environmental impact of urbanization on local environment
- Support economic development in secondary towns through improved water and sanitation, and related income generating activities
- Support cooperation between the countries of the East African Region
If the Lake Victoria project is successful, it could set a great precedent for other large-scale initiatives of the same ilk. There are no eye-candy renderings here, so breath-taking new design or technology. Rather, the project will target poverty and pollution with carefully developed investment strategies, and will hopefully bear fruit.
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